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A gypsy photographer

January 22, 2018

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LAHORE: He is one of very few conceptual photographers of Pakistan who venture into a tough genre of photography, creating strong visuals out of very mundane abstract images. A wanderer by nature, Zaheer Chaudhry remembers his early childhood when he would roam about in the streets of his hometown Pakpattan and watch curiously the details of Hindu, Sikh and colonial buildings. He would bunk school to visit the archaeological site of Harappa and spend long hours walking in the ruins of one of the oldest cities of the world.

“I have an association with architectural details, archaeological sites and walls since my childhood. From scribbling on walls to hanging my artworks, I can relate myself to the walls.

“Watching tongas carrying hoardings, with a drummer beating the drum to promote new films being screened at local cinemas is one of the richest memories of my childhood.

I would make posters and play with art materials without any formal training,” he says.

While studying at the Government College, Lahore, he would visit the National College of Arts, out of curiosity to see people doing eccentric work. These visits led him to join the NCA where he earned a degree in Product Designing but never worked as a designer.

“I was into theatre and other forms of performing arts. Meeting with Shoaib Mansoor paved my way to venture into modelling, acting and cinematography. The association with theatre and video productions during my studies at the NCA made me familiar rather intimate with camera and the photography became my final resort,” he relates.

Starting with a mobile phone camera, his works got first photo journalist award in 2013, followed by another nomination for an award in Hong Kong.

A gypsy photographer, he loves traveling to remote towns of Punjab and Balochistan with art materials and conducts art workshops for children, which are one of the major subjects of his photographic expressions.

He also composes poems in Punjabi and short travel stories.

“I believe traveling is one of the major source of learning, the biggest university with unlimited possibilities,” he says.

He has held his makeshift solo exhibitions in seventeen small towns of Northern Areas of the country. For that, he carries lightweight flex prints of his pictures on his shoulder and hangs them on the climbing rope tied to stones on both ends.

“Exhibiting (works) in big cities and calling people to visit the show is a dull and boring activity as compared to displaying portraits of people in their own locale. I enjoy their excitement and the activity becomes interactive and inspires me to make more clicks,” he narrates in an exciting tone.

He waits for perfect shadows and monsoon to capture reflections on wet roads.

Either made out of abstract shadows or expressive human characters, his works are skillfully composed to create a simple but strong visual impact.

Zaheer Chaudhry has an extraordinarily passionate eye and this characteristic renders his work a distinct feel. Every picture he clicks is not only a story of a moment but an enchanting tale of an illusion, screenplay for a dream or a musical composition of light and shade which transcends the verbal communication. His works carry the mystical power to touch the soul of its viewers.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2018