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Photographer tells Lahore’s tales one picture at a time

Faizan Ahmad's book features 160 stories from 27 metro stations

SAMAA | - Posted: Jan 23, 2021 | Last Updated: 9 months ago
SAMAA |
Posted: Jan 23, 2021 | Last Updated: 9 months ago
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Every year hundreds of people from across Punjab travel to Lahore in search of better education and job opportunities. One of them was Faizan Ahmad, a student from Okara’s Basirpur village who got admission at the University of Education in 2013. By the time he completed his degree, Ahmad had a gift for Lahore which the city will treasure for decades to come. During his college days, Ahmad became an everyday user of the metro bus service. “I used to get on board from Model Town and traveled till the Katchery station every day for four years,” he told SAMAA Digital. During these rides, he decided to photograph 233 commuters. The photographs, compiled in a photobook called Lahore by Metro, capture stories emphasizing one attribute all his subjects shared: being human. The cover of Lahore by Metro. Photo: Faizan Ahmad Spread over 180 pages, comprising 160 images and with stories from 27 metro stations in the city, Lahore by Metro has been published on Kickstarter, a global crowdfunding platform that focuses on bringing creative projects to life. “It is very difficult to get an art book published in Pakistan,” Ahmad said. “When I first approached publishing houses, I was rejected. This is when I decided to do things myself.” Through Kickstarter, Ahmad will be able to control the printing and publishing of his book. “Whoever wants to buy the book can approach me through the website and I will send it to them myself.” A reason behind this is the quality of pictures. “This is Pakistan’s first photobook that has been shot on an iPhone,” he said. When Ahmad came to Lahore, he owned an ordinary Android phone and eventually bought a new phone. “Before publishing the book, I went through all the pictures and chose the ones with the best resolution.” Here are some photos from his book, along with excerpts from Ahmad’s interviews. "Just crossing the bridge." "What is one thing you like most about your friend?" "His good nature." "Anything you don't like about him?" "You don't look at the bad habits of your best friend." “I fell in love with a girl who was living with her sister. It started with exchanging letters and we used to meet every other day in the street. Later I learned that she was a Christian. I am a Muslim so we both were clueless about our future, but one day she told me that to be my wife she will convert to Islam. We eloped and got married. Some of her relatives claim that I forced her to be a Muslim and to marry me. She was with me during this difficult time. It took few months to get rid of that case and now we are living a happy life with our children. Whenever I think about those days, it looks like a miracle, how we managed to marry each other and both of us believe that being strong in difficult times makes one stronger. ” "What was the happiest day of your life?" "When I used to play kabaddi with my friends. Those days of my youth, the memories are still alive in my heart." "Why don't you play now?" "Hahaha... How can I play now Now at this stage if I get kicked I probably wouldn't be able to stand on my feet again." "Happy days are coming soon. My eldest son is in college, my daughter is in 11th grade. My two younger sons are about to complete their 10th grade." “Will you believe that I am from Mansehra? “Yes, I belong to that beautiful heaven. In the 2005 earthquake, we lost almost everything. We lost our house and my father’s legs got injured. After that, we moved here to Lahore to start a new life. We rented a house. My father did not find a job. Our family could not even afford food. That’s why I moved to a madrasa because I can get free food along with the opportunity to learn Quran. In this period, my mother worked hard to raise our family. She started sewing the clothes of our neighbours. I joined school again and after getting a diploma I told my father I’ll help them with the house income. Now I am working in the Metro as a generator operator. We have our own 3- marla house in Lahore now, whenever I look back and recall the peaceful days when we were living in Mansehra I cry. I miss living in that peaceful valley and playing on the canal bank and this memory always makes me sad.” “I’m a single mother of 4 boys. Before I got this job, my husband divorced me and took my sons to the village. In the village, instead of going to school, they were wasting their time all day. It was the worst time in my life as I was unable to bear the expenses of getting my children back through the court. After this job, I was able to save enough money to get my children back from their father and now they live with me here in Lahore. It’s not easy living here with 3 children, but I work hard all day to give them a better life. I don’t want them to spend their time on the streets, so whenever they go outside, I take them back inside. My relatives and neighbors often criticize me for working together with men at my job, but I don’t care about them because I’m the only source of income for my household and I’m both father and mother to my boys. I am proud of my work.” But why the metro station? “When you’re photographing people on the roads or streets, you’d always find them in a rush,” Ahmad said. “But in the metro bus, we had so much time on hand. Sometimes, hours to talk.” Ahmad’s book is not just a collection of those permanently residing in Lahore but features stories from people across the country. “People are usually very similar when it comes to their goals and wishes in life,” he said. “Most of their stories are about families, relationships, and themselves.” Some of his encounters left Ahmad surprised and wanting more. “In these four years I have realised that people just crave to be heard,” he revealed. The student just asked them one question: how did your day go? And a story came bubbling out. There were, however, some tricks of the trade that proved to be helpful for Ahmad. “Offer them a seat. Try Punjabi, sometimes it helps. Let them do the talking,” he said. During the project, there were some stories that hit home for Ahmad. One was of a woman who was making ends meet to educate her boys. “Coming from a family where my mother raised me and my brother single-handedly, I could relate to the struggles of the woman,” he told SAMAA Digital. According to Ahmad, some of the stories are relatable, some are sad but most of them are happy and hopeful. “All of them are amazing content for novels or even movies.”
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Every year hundreds of people from across Punjab travel to Lahore in search of better education and job opportunities.

One of them was Faizan Ahmad, a student from Okara’s Basirpur village who got admission at the University of Education in 2013. By the time he completed his degree, Ahmad had a gift for Lahore which the city will treasure for decades to come.

During his college days, Ahmad became an everyday user of the metro bus service. “I used to get on board from Model Town and traveled till the Katchery station every day for four years,” he told SAMAA Digital.

During these rides, he decided to photograph 233 commuters.

The photographs, compiled in a photobook called Lahore by Metro, capture stories emphasizing one attribute all his subjects shared: being human.

Faizan-Ahmad-photobook
The cover of Lahore by Metro. Photo: Faizan Ahmad

Spread over 180 pages, comprising 160 images and with stories from 27 metro stations in the city, Lahore by Metro has been published on Kickstarter, a global crowdfunding platform that focuses on bringing creative projects to life.

“It is very difficult to get an art book published in Pakistan,” Ahmad said. “When I first approached publishing houses, I was rejected. This is when I decided to do things myself.”

Through Kickstarter, Ahmad will be able to control the printing and publishing of his book. “Whoever wants to buy the book can approach me through the website and I will send it to them myself.”

A reason behind this is the quality of pictures. “This is Pakistan’s first photobook that has been shot on an iPhone,” he said.

When Ahmad came to Lahore, he owned an ordinary Android phone and eventually bought a new phone. “Before publishing the book, I went through all the pictures and chose the ones with the best resolution.”

Here are some photos from his book, along with excerpts from Ahmad’s interviews.

Faizan-Ahmad-photobook
“Just crossing the bridge.”
Faizan-Ahmad-photobook
“What is one thing you like most about your friend?”
“His good nature.”
“Anything you don’t like about him?”
“You don’t look at the bad habits of your best friend.”
Faizan-Ahmad-photobook
“I fell in love with a girl who was living with her sister. It started with exchanging letters and we used to meet every other day in the street. Later I learned that she was a Christian. I am a Muslim so we both were clueless about our future, but one day she told me that to be my wife she will convert to Islam. We eloped and got married. Some of her relatives claim that I forced her to be a Muslim and to marry me. She was with me during this difficult time. It took few months to get rid of that case and now we are living a happy life with our children. Whenever I think about those days, it looks like a miracle, how we managed to marry each other and both of us believe that being strong in difficult times makes one stronger. ”
Faizan-Ahmad-photobook
“What was the happiest day of your life?”
“When I used to play kabaddi with my friends. Those days of my youth, the memories are still alive in my heart.”
“Why don’t you play now?”
“Hahaha… How can I play now Now at this stage if I get kicked I probably wouldn’t be able to stand on my feet again.”
Faizan-Ahmad-photobook
“Happy days are coming soon. My eldest son is in college, my daughter is in 11th grade. My two younger sons are about to complete their 10th grade.”
Faizan-Ahmad-photobook
“Will you believe that I am from Mansehra?
“Yes, I belong to that beautiful heaven. In the 2005 earthquake, we lost almost everything. We lost our house and my father’s legs got injured. After that, we moved here to Lahore to start a new life. We rented a house. My father did not find a job. Our family could not even afford food. That’s why I moved to a madrasa because I can get free food along with the opportunity to learn Quran. In this period, my mother worked hard to raise our family. She started sewing the clothes of our neighbours. I joined school again and after getting a diploma I told my father I’ll help them with the house income. Now I am working in the Metro as a generator operator. We have our own 3- marla house in Lahore now, whenever I look back and recall the peaceful days when we were living in Mansehra I cry. I miss living in that peaceful valley and playing on the canal bank and this memory always makes me sad.”
Faizan-Ahmad-photobook
“I’m a single mother of 4 boys. Before I got this job, my husband divorced me and took my sons to the village. In the village, instead of going to school, they were wasting their time all day. It was the worst time in my life as I was unable to bear the expenses of getting my children back through the court. After this job, I was able to save enough money to get my children back from their father and now they live with me here in Lahore. It’s not easy living here with 3 children, but I work hard all day to give them a better life. I don’t want them to spend their time on the streets, so whenever they go outside, I take them back inside. My relatives and neighbors often criticize me for working together with men at my job, but I don’t care about them because I’m the only source of income for my household and I’m both father and mother to my boys. I am proud of my work.”

But why the metro station?

“When you’re photographing people on the roads or streets, you’d always find them in a rush,” Ahmad said. “But in the metro bus, we had so much time on hand. Sometimes, hours to talk.”

Ahmad’s book is not just a collection of those permanently residing in Lahore but features stories from people across the country.

“People are usually very similar when it comes to their goals and wishes in life,” he said. “Most of their stories are about families, relationships, and themselves.”

Some of his encounters left Ahmad surprised and wanting more. “In these four years I have realised that people just crave to be heard,” he revealed. The student just asked them one question: how did your day go? And a story came bubbling out.

There were, however, some tricks of the trade that proved to be helpful for Ahmad. “Offer them a seat. Try Punjabi, sometimes it helps. Let them do the talking,” he said.

During the project, there were some stories that hit home for Ahmad. One was of a woman who was making ends meet to educate her boys. “Coming from a family where my mother raised me and my brother single-handedly, I could relate to the struggles of the woman,” he told SAMAA Digital.

According to Ahmad, some of the stories are relatable, some are sad but most of them are happy and hopeful. “All of them are amazing content for novels or even movies.”

 
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