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A hunter of images

December 12, 2016


Nadeem Khawar
Nadeem Khawar

A photographer of classic style, Nadeem Khawar was raised in a small village along BRB Canal in the suburbs of Narang Mandi. He lived a rich childhood, wandering in the rustic landscape, hunting birds, rabbits and fish. A deeply-rooted love for rural landscape, native people, wilderness and wildlife made a strong impact on his photographic expressions.

“I am a gypsy by nature; my ancestral house was almost at the bank of canal. The other side of the bank was not cultivated. I would love spending time there in the jungle and observing nature,” he vividly recalls.

He moved to Lahore in early 1980s for studies and permanently got settled there. During a visit to Japan in 1988, he developed a passion for photography and learnt the basic skills.

“I gradually developed an understanding of protecting the wildlife. The day I picked the camera totally changed my approach towards animals. Rather than hunting, I started adoring the beauty of birds.”

After few years, he came back to Lahore and started practicing professional photography.

“I didn’t feel shy of doing all kinds of photography to make a living. Every click brings joy to me. I make money from commercial shoots and spend it on artistic ventures, which are usually not well paid,” he says.

Working for more than two decades, he has displayed his images at major photography shows in Pakistan and abroad.

The works of Steve McCurry and Zafar Ahmed helped a great deal in his artistic grooming.

“Steve exposed the mundane life and changed my perception about the art of photography. I grew up looking at the works of Zafar Ahmed. I love the way he captures light and regards him as my teacher,” he acknowledges.

He travelled across Pakistan from Northern Areas to the remotest lands of Balochistan and Sindh for hunting images. With numerous publications to his credit, he has recently done an archival book on Sindh, carrying 360 photographs including the rarely exposed images of Jain temples situated close to Indian border neighbouring Rajasthan.

“The access to these areas was difficult and risky. I was amused to see the masterpieces by traditional artisans, including figurative paintings depicting folklore in the tombs and stone sculptures in the Jain temples, in a very good condition,” he adds.

He laments the absence of publications dedicated to culture, wildlife and landscape in Pakistan.

“There is no space to print our works and the buyers who need photographs show total disregard for the hard work behind the creation of every image.

“I spent 11 days at the base camp of K-2, at minus 20 degrees, waiting for appropriate light. But the viewer thinks it is an outcome of just a single click,” he says in a bitter tone.

He focuses on a wide range of subjects from portraits, rural sports, wildlife and mundane living of indigenous ethnic tribes. The mountains and the people living there have been his lifetime romance.

He works with an idealistic approach and puts a lot of hard work to find the images from the rarely exposed areas of country. The practice of waiting patiently for appropriate light distinguishes his landscapes from the works of his contemporaries.

Gifted with a sharp eye, he has very refined skills to capture the spontaneous beauty. His subjects are harmonised with their backgrounds; he usually composes in classical and orientalist manner. These works have an elegant aura and a strong visual impact.

Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2016