The ‘Pix’torial Survey of Pakistan


The ‘Pix’torial Survey of Pakistan

“Consequently while making the preliminary foray in to the issue some of the broader predicaments that came to mind were: what constitutes the physica

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“Consequently while making the preliminary foray in to the issue some of the broader predicaments that came to mind were: what constitutes the physical geography of photography today? How are the images from Pakistan embedded in different social, cultural and historical conditions? And what does the experience reveal about the global condition of photography, and how does that (if at all) change our experience of ‘place’?”

Rahaab Allana – Rewriting Photography – Surge 2015

Editor of India’s first Photography Quarterly, entitled Pix, funded by the Goethe-Institut


The above mentioned quote is the premise of the editorial masterpiece of Pix, ‘Surge’ issue, which was launched in January2015, at Nairang Gallery, (organized by Annemarie-Schimmel-Haus, in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut).

The event was a much needed exchange to reflect on photography in Pakistan. It was the essence of the fortitude of apublication that served like a pictorial map of finding identity – losing it – defining it… and then opting to redefine…

This thankfully sheds light on our efforts to ‘remember’.Salima Hashmi and Tehmina Ahmed in ‘Pakistan: emerging strains in photography’ takes usthrough the 80’s. The‘erstwhile International PhotographyClub of Karachi’ to Danish Tapal and Jamshyd Masud and the emergence of Arif Mahmood… to the survey on the ‘archive’ itself and our inherent capacity to create, find and share or tear it…

And consequently I’m taken to Saira Ansari’s mentioning of the burning of Ferozsons and Dyal Singh Mansion,Edwin Koo’s search for paradise in Swat valley, Asad Haye’s reference to the famous legend of Anarkaliimmured in the walls, Naiza Khan’s ‘Building Terrain 1’and Marylise Vigneau’s Peaceful days in Lahore: where a wrestler and factory worker, showers from a hand pump near Ravi, a man gets his beard shaved and Javaid Masih, age 35 enters the deep sewer at Shah Alami Bazar.

The essays and images make the reader/viewer excessively engaged and investigative. It is not a choice to hold it once and keep it on the side for later viewing… as it builds along, apart and anewsimultaneously.You won’t have to hold your phone and smile at it or pose…. Every page will come across as a ‘selfie’ (a popular digital image trend) – a mirror, an understanding of ourselves…

Mental illnesses are a taboo in Pakistan. “Most of them, after getting ‘cured’ or rehabilitated, were unable to return to their homes. It seems that they prefer to refrain from the insanity outside.”Aun Raza’s imagery takes us in to new fictional lands that he mentions… it looks like a place where loss is shared…

This seesaw of fiction and reality is discussed further in Quddus Mirza’s ‘Two Sides of a Picture.’ As he explains, “The ‘unusal’ is invoked through a different strategy in the work of Mariam Ibraaz… but more than the apparent decadence or indulgence of her female protagonist; it is a sense of solitude that marks the real content of Ibraaz’s art.”

Asef Ali Mahmood takes us through the plight of Hazara people. The insider’s gaze is a commonality in Ali Mahmood’s, Aun Raza’s and Mariam Ibraaz’ work but all three artists ‘push one’ in to the excess baggage that comes with being an insider. Empathy is crucial here.

Artist Amber Hammad, who along with Salima Hashmi and Quddus Mirza spoke at the launch – on the other hand informs a skeptical view of the insider. It looks/feels like having a phone-talk across a prison-cell – where Hammad is in the picture and we are outside.As Quddus Mirza stressed upon visualshaving no language and barriers (at Nairang)…Most amusing aspect of Hammad’s work is that it overloads with information; historical, intellectual, cultural – and undoes it at the same time…

Salima Hashmi and Tehmina Ahmad verily mentioned…

“The force field of images in this issue is that it consumes, inhabits and distills a contemporary practice, well beyond the isolationist reading one may have of Pakistan today”

From Tooraj Khamenzadeh’s decorative bus – window stickers juxtaposed with a common man travelling in the frame of a politician’s portrait to ‘Time and play in Malcolm Hutcheson’s Ganda Nala’ (by Hammad Nasar) to Edwin Koo’s search of paradise through the misfortunes of the beautiful Swat valley…‘Towards the future’ and ‘Ethereal Lights’ by Arif Mahmood…

A ‘Surge’ it is. Rahaab Allana has left an eminent ‘Pix’torial mark of history and we owe it to him.


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