KARACHI: Photographer Arif Mahmood has established credentials. He is known for capturing contextually rich moments, never letting his art and craft come in the way of the subject matter he zooms in on.
Witnessing an Arif Mahmood image makes the viewer study the whole gamut of human emotion arrested in a frame, in a singular stationary instant. The experience that he has in the field of photography is vast and the lessons that he’s learnt from his experiences never allow him to put a halt to his creative journey. It is only fitting that he names his latest exhibition, which opened at the Canvas Art Gallery on Tuesday, Crossroads.
Arif does simple things very well. This means he photographs characters and situations that are not convoluted or in need of deciphering. But that’s where his artistry lies. It is the complexity behind those ostensibly uncomplicated characters and scenarios that he draws out through a frozen shot. Take, for example, a young boy standing by a grave in a graveyard that is populated with gravesites (Canson infinity archival inkjet paper, untitled). The boy is not looking at the camera; in fact, he is looking rather inquisitively at something that doesn’t seem to be part of the scene, either following an instruction or of his own volition. Either way, it is the setting, the cemetery, which gives the picture a mysterious aura, not an eerie one. Eeriness is not something Arif looks for. It is the mystery that shrouds people and places which he highlights.
This he does with another photograph in which a bulky man is sitting beside a lion. Again, the mystery surrounding the lion adds to the one that the viewer associates with its tamer.
The untitled picture of a man looking into the camera with motorcycles in the foreground and a series of mannequins in the background is also a work of art, for the same reason. It brings together intelligently three, if not more, aspects of life — the machine, exhibitionism and the human condition.
The fact that most of Arif’s work is done in black and white adds, ironically and oxymoronically, colour to his efforts. In that regard the picture, a landscape (photo rag archival inkjet paper) is worth taking note of. The sky, the faint light and the darkness that the neighbourhood is enveloped in… are all there, without colours, for they are inherently coloured.
The show will remain open till Jan 15.
Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2015