GT talks to ultra-talented stylist and photographer
How did you get into styling?
Iâ€™ve been sketching since I was a child. Whenever I would draw a portrait it would never turn out properlyâ€”I would always mess up the proportions because Iâ€™m attracted to distortion. As I grew up, I began thinking I would become a painter. But when I was in college in Gujrat, at the School of Art, Design and Architecture, I studied communication design, which is basically an advanced form of graphics. From my first year I started shooting portraits. I got into photography. As I got to know myself, I realized I was attracted to distortion, darkness, disfigurement,Â even filth. I like unusual faces.
Who are your inspirations?
Nobody in Pakistan! The work here is very commercial whereas I am drawn to more artistic things. There is a Spanish photographer Paco Peregrin whose style is similar to mine; he also shoots head transformations. I stylize and drape normal faces as if they are a piece of art. Iâ€™m inspired by eastern and western mythologies, in particular the goddess Morrigan who is one of the great â€œnegativeâ€ goddesses of Irish mythology. She represents battle and strife.
Why is there so much darkness in your work?
Iâ€™m an unusual person. When we used to study Maths in school, I used to ask my teachers â€œWhy do I need to learn algorithms? I donâ€™t need algorithms in my life! I need art.â€ I always used to ask questions, and nobody had answers. For my thesis, I wanted to do my project on Azab-e-Qabrâ€”when our bodies will be all bones and ash. But then my father fell ill, and I understood that to be an omen of some sort. I put a hold on the darkness. I got more into art, beauty, and fashion.
‘I am attracted to distortion, darkness, and disfigurement’
Do you come from an artistic family?
Yes, my grandfather used to make pottery! But sad to say no one kept up his work.
You moved to Lahore in 2013. How do you like it?
Itâ€™s very small. People think small. They need to start thinking bigger. The people in Karachi are better, more cosmopolitan. The fashion industry in Lahore is not very approachable.
What is your most memorable shoot?
I did a shoot called â€œThe Diseasedâ€ about people who are shadowed by a deep and persistent melancholyâ€”those who have no lasting comfort for the soul.
‘I wanted to show hijras in an entirely new concept. I wanted to capture a feeling of sadness’
Why arenâ€™t people getting out of their comfort zones?
People are preoccupied with money. Money is important, certainly, but itâ€™s not everything. For example, I wanted to show hijras in an entirely new conceptâ€”the title I had imagined was â€œThe birthless mothers.â€ Itâ€™s in process. I have to justify my concept. Hijras dance and sing but they have a lingering inferiority complex that they canâ€™t birth a child. They sometimes adopt a child. Itâ€™s a feeling of sadness that I wanted to capture in a shoot. The shoot will involve babies stuck to the bodies or to the head. People still look at hijras with a filthy look. There is no acceptability in our society, frankly. We get embarrassed. And I wanted to show that.
Do you think art flourishes under difficult circumstances?
Iâ€™m not a very political person. I donâ€™t absorb tragedy like that. For example, when the Peshawar tragedy happened, I was deeply sad, but I donâ€™t think I incorporated it into my work. I continue to be obsessed with transforming and playing with established norms of what things are like.