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Images that stay with you

June 23, 2013

KARACHI, June 22: A rope separating the blacks from white folk in South Africa during the apartheid, a little child with bullets in his hand, Afghan boys playing football at the Bamiyan Buddha site… the images grab you and stay with you. Each picture is a story in itself.

These are just some of the images exhibited at the United Nations (UN) photo exhibition titled ‘Seven Decades of Photography’ presented by the International Photography Council (IPC) in coordination with the Department of Public Information with the cooperation of Photo Imaging and Marketing Association (PIMA) at the Expo Centre on Saturday.

“Bringing issues to the notice of the people is how photographs can change the world,” said PIMA president Muzammil Izhar Siddiqui, the man behind the display, while referring to the pictures in the collection on the opening day of the exhibition.

“All the photographs that you see here have in one way or the other raised an issue. There are thousands of such beautiful pictures out there by official professional UN photographers during the UN peacekeeping efforts but this particular collection of 53 photographs has been selected by the UN. I got the soft images from the UN headquarters and got the prints done here,” he added.

Pointing towards a 1975 picture of an Egyptian and an Israeli soldier walking away with their backs turned to each other, Mr Siddiqui said that it had a great artistic feel about it. “The picture was taken after the Sinai Interim Agreement between the two countries and you can see that the soldiers are walking away leaving their differences behind them,” he said.

Another picture of food being brought to Afghanistan through the UN’s World Food Programme in 2003 shows a UN truck laden with food and a local man loading the sacks of grain on his mule. “See how it reached Afghanistan through air and truck and how it will reach the local population through their own modest means,” said Mr Siddiqui while appreciating the photo. “So each picture is a story in itself,” he added.

Looking around, one found oneself surrounded by such stories. There was a photo of the beautiful late Hollywood actress Audrey Hepburn, a former UN goodwill ambassador, speaking about child immunisation at the UN in 1991; a child receiving cholera treatment in L’Estere, Haiti, in 2010; Unicef supplying milk to Guatemalan children in 1951, etc. The oldest photo in the collection was taken on Sept 17, 1947. It depicts the second session of the UN Assembly.

According to the event organisers, the same exhibition was earlier held in Cologne, Germany. “The IPC, which holds the copyright to all these photographs, only organised such exhibitions inside the UN headquarters,” said Zameer Iqbal, a member of PIMA organising committee, who is also the coordinator of this exhibition. “It was Mr Siddiqui who convinced the IPC to take the exhibition to other countries,” he added.

“At first I suggested taking the exhibition to Karachi and when they weren’t sure they would do that, I mentioned Dubai, too. But Cologne in Germany seemed more doable to the IPC so we took it there last year. The response of the people in Germany then convinced the council to hold their exhibition in other countries as well so my suggestion for Karachi was also picked up after that. Next year, hopefully, we will take this exhibition to Dubai, too,” Mr Siddiqui said.

The exhibition concludes on Sunday.