Congratulations to InayatShah for receiving seniority on July 7th, 2014!
What is it like to be a part of the senior hut? How do you feel about receiving the Medal? How did you receive the news?
Actually this is something I will have to find out, I just joined the club. I feel quite honoured and proud of receiving this particular distinction. Without bragging, in my professional life, A long career in the Air Force and now Defence Engineering, I have received many awards and distinctions, including quite a few bright shiny service medals. But this recognition from the DA community, which Is the most wonderful global community of artists will take pride of place over all the rest. Since I don't have a list of all the senior members, I think I am probably also the first "Pakistani" to be a senior member.
Although I am not sure if I have been given this recognition because of my humble efforts in documentary art, where I have tried to give a truer picture of the common Pakistani as compared to how the international media portray us. Just an insight to normal everyday people. Or has it been because of my contributions to the DA community as a whole, with the joint efforts of Jenny Stokes (Who has also received this honour with me) in the groups that we run together.
More than a mark of achievement, I consider it a signal to put more impetus and drive into both my efforts at a personal level in my art and my contribution to the community. I hope that being a member of the Senior Hut, will afford me a platform, where I can contribute more effectively to a larger section. With this recognition I need to continually prove that I am worthy.
How did I receive the news? How else but a whole spate of congratulatory messages on the award, I can not say enough how wonderful and appreciative and ecouraging of each other, the DA community is.
You've done an amazing job showing the true side of the common Pakistani! Your gallery is full of great shots!
I've looked through your gallery and one photo caught my attention. May I ask what the history is behind the photo The Agony Of Poverty - II?
This photograph was taken out side one of Islamabad's "Sunday Markets". In the first instance it seems to be nothing more than an old beggar man .. asking for some charity. I visit the Sunday market frequently .. my camera accompanies me while shopping for vegetables. I recognised the man from shot I had taken of him a couple of years earlier very close by to the same spot. This triggered a number of simultaneous threads of thought. He is one of the multitude of visible-invisibles. Most people would look at him without seeing. Just another beggar, his face and appearance quickly forgotten. We as a nation have grown immune to such sights and our minds are tuned to ignore. But I remember .. Then begging has become a business, apart from those that have fallen through the cracks of society into the gutter of life and are left with no recourse but to cast aside their dignity and beg, there are a multitude of those who with a multitude of reasons, act, pretend and falsify their conditions and circumstances because they find begging is more profitable or easy than any other dignified recourse to labour. But no matter if the suffer this indignity because they have no other option or because it is better than any other option. The common factor of poverty remains. The real agony of Poverty being the loss of self respect. So as I pass him by .. do I drop a few coins in his hand ..because I feel he is a "real" beggar or do I pass him by because I think he is a "false" beggar. I know that the help that the few coins I will give to him .. is only temporary ..and probably eases my conscience more than it alleviates his poverty. Real or Not, What I do know is that he will be still there tomorrow ..still begging. Will my donation really help him, does he really want out of this life, will it make any difference or will it just help him to maintain his status quo.
These thoughts are too long an complicated to analyze in the few seconds it took me to kneel take his picture and walk the few steps past him. But my hand does go into my pocket to gather the loose change and drop it into his outstretched hand. But yet it doesn't bring my conscience any relief.
Your work tells stories that like you say, show reality from a closer perspective. How do you feel you have affected your viewers with your work, I mean, from the feedback you get, how do you feel people respond to your reality?
Well firstly to answer this, you have to appreciate that I live in Pakistan and most of my images are of Pakistan. Pakistan is a country that has received much press and media coverage, and mostly the media seems to capture the sensationalized "bad" things of Pakistan. I just wanted to show the people of Pakistan from my "backyard" perspective. The normal people, the common people, to show that inspte of our vast cultural differences, we are the same. We have hopes and aspirations, we face adversity and troubles, we rejoice in achievements just like everybody else. I did not go for the grandeur or the more colourful events, it is more an attempt to show the everyday fabric of our society, in terms of basic human emotions. From my feedback, I find that i have been able to garner empathy and a better understanding, at least with my regular watchers. Of course with many images the conversation on the feedback and comments also results in sharing more of the image, and its cultural background. There is yet so much to capture and share.
You also help the community quite a lot with your photography tips and your wonderful features. As an artist, what prompts you to share these tips, how do you feel when you help out like this? Does people's appreciation encourages you to do so?
Well thank you, what prompts me, well for the photography tips, basically they are arising out of some discussion. I do find DA very interactive and instead of just writing back some quick notes, I thought it would be much nicer to share the same information in the form of a journal, that others may also find useful. I enjoy both reading other peoples guides as well as sharing my meager knowledge. I think this is a very important role of DA as a peer group to share experiences and knowledge. I have learnt a lot myself from DA, observing other artists work and reading their journals. I feel I must also pay back to the community also.
Thank you very much for the interview! Do you have anything you wish to share with us? Any Last words?
Any Last words !!! *laughing* isnt that what the ask the prisoner before he gets executed ?
In my book, there are no last words. Art, Ideas, philosophy are constantly evolving, changing. As artists we must also be constantly evolving, thoughts, ideas, concepts .. "the last word" is so final. The last word can only be said when one achieves perfection .. and as humans we are not perfect .. we must constantly strive to be better. *laughing* yes I know what you meant by "any last words" ...To me, photography is an art of observation. It's about finding something interesting in an ordinary place... I've found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.