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