Photography: Beauty, to each their own.

I remember the day my father & I made my first ‘pinhole‘ camera from a National Geographic Magazine’s special ‘cut out’ insert.  From doing a quick Google Search, I discovered it was the August 1977 issue of National Geographic World (now NG Kids).  (*interesting to note that a Muslim scientist named Ibn Haitham (965-104- CE) invented the first pinhole camera or “camara obscura”). There is no lens involved and the trick is to make the hole just small enough to let enough light through the aperture to produce a clear enough image, and adjusting the shutter exposure time by lifting the hand held flap accordingly.  aa-laos.jpgWe probably created some interesting photos, but unfortunately memory does not serve me well now, as to what we actually photographed!  What I do remember is how neat I thought it was that such a simple box could take pictures and photograph inanimate objects.  I knew I wanted to learn more.  No cheap disposible cameras back then – no digitals either, of course.  My father took photos with much enthusiasm, and with the birth of my sister and myself, the photos were most often portraits of the family. (This one of my sister & I was taken in Vientiane, Laos, c. 1978 ).

My father almost always had a camera in hand.  Pentax was his brand and he also had numerous lenses and filters.  I found it fascinating.  I think I in earnest began taking photographs with my first camera (handed downinstamatickodakcamera.jpg from my father), the Kodak Instamatic Cube Flash camera.  You can find them on Ebay and they are now considered ‘vintage’ (I didn’t realize how old that made me feel, until I saw it in print!).   It was the best ‘point and shoot’ of the 70s, and took some lovely day and night-time snaps.  I remember how he always told me to look at my subject and be able to create a ‘depth of vision’ with the camera by adjusting the f/stop and shutter speeds. 

I next took a photography class in High School where we had to use a manual SLR lens camera, shoot photos in black and white and develop the photos in the dark room using the smelly chemicals, enlargers and unique and stylistically challenging techniques for developing the photos.  I next inherited my father’s old Pentax manual, along with some wide angle lenses.  I fell in love with photography.  I think I took photos of thedonald.jpgEVERYTHING, trying to get unusual perspectives, close-ups and portraits, abstract and the real as well.  My favorite shoot during that class was going to my father’s office in Mid-town New York City, and take photos from the 13th floor of his office building, looking down at the pyramid glass rooftops of the adjacent buildings.  I also remember going to the Trump Towers (newly minted in the mid-80s) and finding the ‘Donald’ signing some new book of his in the lobby.  My first celebrity shot. 

After trotting off to college, I just snapped photos of long cherished carefee days and memories of faces I no longer see or even know where they are now.  But the photos captured it all, preserving moments in time, locked away in my memories somewhere.  Till this day, I am often derided for being the ‘Kodak’ lady and always clicking away.  I think I must have at least 5-8 ‘book’ boxes of developed photos along with their negatives!  I kept telling myself to separate the negatives from the photos, lest they all perish in a conflagration some day, God forbid!  I went through some nasty point and shoots, and became revolted by their lack of depth and dimension.  I had to move on.

After earning my own keep in the post college years, and before my marriage, I finally bought my first NEW camera.  I had to keep true to the family brand, and got a Pentax ZX-5, SLR (Manual/Auto).  The memories had piled up in print, ranging from college days to international travels, new friends, cities lived in, a wedding, honeymoon, family, Pakistan, and then eventually the children!  While the pace has slowed down, the photos are still collecting, and thankfully now, they just consume large amounts of HD space on my computer, vs. those heavy overstuffed boxes I now lug from one house move to another.  (And there have been at least 5 in the last 8 years).  Digital photography has revolutionized the way we photograph and preserve.  Online photo (public) sites now allow us to view ‘e-published’ photos of places and people we may have never known, unless we travelled there ourselves or owned many photography/travel books. 

Photography to me, captures that moment which we find funny, silly, intriguing, beautiful, auspicious, symbolic or moving at that given point in time.  It is oft more descriptive and evocative than words.  Each person has their own story, their own way of showing the lens what they see.  While it captures the ‘real’, it also shows us something beyond and often intangible to those who care to view them.

I am amazed at the quality of amatuer photographers out there these days and any search villageview.jpgyou do on the Flickr site, often yields some photographer’s unique portfolio, or even just one amazing photo they may have snapped.   While I may be plugging here, one such site is my brother-in-law, Jawad Zakariya’s site, where he as posted his portfolio.  He is in my opinion, someone who has found his own unique perspective and is able to capture the mood and feel of a place, monument or sight with just the right kind of lighting and angle along with personal emotion.  Some of his photos make a statement, others are just pleasing to the eye.  He was recently exhibited at the “Nairang Gallery” in Lahore, Pakistan, along with an array of other Pakistani Amateur Photographers.  I was remembering the other day after chatting with him, that many years ago, I had asked if he wouldn’t mind driving me around Lahore late at night during ‘Chand Raat’ (or the Eve of Eid celebrations), so that I could use my new Pentax SLR to shoot some scenes of Pakistan to take back home with me – I took photos of the Choori Walas (glass bracelet sellers), as well as any Mithai (sweet meats) and Phool (flower) ‘wala’s’.  He was kind enough to indulge me, and I think I took some decent shots that night.  I wondered if he thought his relatively ‘new’ sister-in-law seemed a bit odd to make such a request back then….I am certain he has done more intriguing photo shoots since that evening…as any enthusiast would. 

I am still trying to find my old photos which are not ‘digitized’ and hope to scan them to my Flickr site in some decent format.  I do have a few already up.  I had to start somewhere!

I found this (and the one of “the Donald”, above) from an old box of mine, in an envelope labeled: “Photography I, (Mr. ‘Fitz’), Roll #1, September 1987“.  It is my first contact sheet developed in apcontactsheet.jpgthe dark room at my high school…

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3 Comments »

  1. Ammie said

    Aisha—thoroughly enjoyed your article on photography. Love that picture of you both with your umpteen cats! Keep shooting ‘kodak lady’. Because of you we have so many fond memories captured in your photographs. Love—-Ammie. PS—Abu has still to see and read this article.

  2. sabizak said

    Enjoyed this one, Aisha. Like you and your Dad, Abbu and Jawad Bhai have always been into cameras and photography in our house so I am sure Jawad Bhai would have been delighted by your unusual request.
    This comment box is getting too family oriented waisay.

  3. Eddy said

    I loved this article. I have to agree the picture with your sister and the kittens is priceless. =)

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