Last Saturday a three-day exhibition of documentary photography began in the streets of Lahore as a part of the scheduled activities of the Pakistan Photo Film Festival (PPF). The temporary gallery was set up with the intent of creating awareness on social issues. The stills and portraits of nine young artists handpicked across the nation are up for viewing to passers-by or to whoever has interest in the project at the Kalma Chowk and in every Central Metro stations across the city.
According to the PFF every photographer participating in the event comes from a half-year tenure in Lahore, where they go the chance to produce, create and work in projects depicting brutal realities affecting the nation on economic levels, as well as social issues and legal rights. Some of the biggest names in the photography business in the UAE are standing behind the project by offering their full support to the young artist as well as mentoring if required.
People like Asim Rafiqui, Shah Zaman Baloch, Matthieu Paley, Mahesh Shantaram and Wendy Marijnissen got involved by assisting with their knowledge in extended sessions of discussion, where ideas were exchanged about the ways to create awareness on social issues through the lens of a camera.
The work of each artist is as diverse as their backgrounds. This was enough of an incentive for the PPF organizers to switch the location of the event from the usually renewed galleries to more public access. Where just a few could have enjoyed the work of the young talents now 1.3 million people can view it in a single day.
Some of the most outstanding work of each participant is easily identified by the professional mentoring them. Salman Alam Khan was mentored by Matthieu Paley, who works as a contributor for National Geographic in France. He created a set of portraits called “Knitted Beliefs” where he captures the colorful dimensions of Narayanapura, a very popular village located in Karachi City.
Ema Anis chose to showcase the ongoing routines of a gated community in a project called “White Street Journal”. While Nida Mehboob created a gallery display focusing on discrimination issues faced by minorities across the country in a project called “Shadow Lives”. She was mentored by Wendy Marijnissen a freelancer from Belgium.
Faizan Adil shows some hard realities about nursing homes in the city of Pakistan in a project called “Industry of Dissolving Portraits”. Shaista Chishty created a gallery of images showing the evolution of a family after moving from Pakistan to the UK after the events of the partition, where the land was seceded from India under the British Empire rule. It was called “One Pound in my Pocket” and Wendy Marijnissen was her guide through the project.
Maryam Altaf from Lahore got in contact with taxi drivers across the country to tell their stories on how they have been affected by the rise of carpool services such as Uber and Lyft in series of portraits called “Conversations in Transit”. She was mentored by independent photographer AsimRafiqui. On the other hand, Aziz Changezi from Quetta is showing how a number of families earn a living through recycling in a project called “Scavenging for Wealth”. He was mentored by Didier Ruef a documentary photographer from Switzerland. Who also worked with Faizan Ahmad an artist who used his storytelling skills to create a compelling series of portraits showcasing the everyday tales of regular people in a project called “From The Metro Bus: The Uncommon Stories of the Common People”.
The last participant is Ramis Abbas who worked with a group of students offering proposals for a better functioning society with clear political rules and a consolidated legal system. His project is named “The Past That Could Not Be” and it was mentored by Mahesh Shantaram, a well-known photographer from India.
For the Pakistan Photo Film Festival, the Idea behind this exhibition is to create new spaces to showcase art using public spaces. They aim to take break the cycle of restricted audiences to everything related to photography and they hope to attract viewers of every social group to enjoy the images and the stories told through every portrait.