Gone are the days when the photographer left behind a dangerous trap made up of long curly threads and artificial lights powerful enough to blind an eagle. Today smartphones and DSLRs have turned everyone into something of an Instagram reporter, but it takes more than a fancy camera to prove your mettle as a professional.
We live in a male dominated society where a Pakistani woman has to make calculated decisions following the boundaries set for her. Female photographers are often overlooked in favor of more well-known male colleagues, but there is no denying that female photographers bring a unique perspective to the field.
Pakistan found its first female photographer in Rashida Afghan, who started photography in 1964. People were shocked. A field overshadowed by the men, they laughed, ‘What are you doing?’ “Do you even have a movie in your camera? »’It is not a woman’s job!’. She also did not receive much encouragement from her male colleagues.
The niche of female photographers is now constantly growing in our country, although limited to wedding photography mainly, nevertheless women have been able to create brands from their names with the exemplary work they have done. Countless names like Maha Wajahat, Palwasha Minhas, Waliya Najib, Fatima Tariq and many more have taken the game of photography to another level, where they are on par with their contemporaries. Each photographer has an individual way of seeing the world, and female photographers bring their own perspective, who have come out and decided to explore the world through their lens.
“When we started in 2009, there were already established male photographers in the field who seemed threatened at times by our growing popularity,” share the two sisters of Rammal & Nabia M’s Photography – The Visual Storytellers, who turned their passion into a business. “It was harder at the start because we weren’t taken seriously. We were ridiculed for “carrying a camera” because it was just a trend. When we started doing things on our own, the same people would come to us and say “Aap ki tou hawa chal rai hai aaj kal”. (You fly high these days) or spread rumors that they taught us photography. It took persistence and courage before our work began to speak for itself.
The wedding industry has readily accepted the role of a female photographer, as brides and their families feel more comfortable hiring female photographers. “Photography with a feminine aesthetic is what attracts brides to our portfolio. There is always an added element of being more comfortable with a girl photographer. We can talk about anything. I don’t believe most men can bond with their clients this way. It makes us happy to know that we can have a small contribution in this acceptance ”, explain the sisters.
“By working with a male competitor, we make sure that our limits are respected and that the shoot does not turn into a battlefield. With reference to the glass ceiling (when women are excluded from leadership positions and discriminated against because of their gender), we would like to believe that we have made our mark with our work, ”they add.
The girls shared the hurdles they faced initially as the market was completely eclipsed by men by then. “Our journey was not all smooth. It’s always difficult to be a newcomer to the market, but it’s definitely more difficult when you’re a woman. We would stand still in the same space as male photographers and try to photograph in the most creative way possible. The end results, however, wowed customers. They believe that although it is a bumpy road for them as women, they want to be known for their work and talent at the end of the day: “Throughout our journey we have focused on the fact. to be hired to be good photographers, not female photographers. , and we have always asked our customers to choose us purely on merit. We live in a very stereotypical patriarchal society and stereotypes were hard to break; looking back a decade later, we see the number of girls who are in this field and couldn’t be prouder. Rammal and Nabia both envision female photographers taking it to the next level, making it international, and being recognized and acclaimed for their talent, not just their gender.
Break the chains of “Log kya kahaingay?” (What will people say?) Hira Iqbal, of Hira Iqbal Photography, is another woman who has become a successful businesswoman and has been in the photography business for seven years. While sharing her story, she explains that it was not easy for her to pursue her dream of capturing images because her father was against her becoming a professional photographer. “When I was an amateur and made mistakes in the beginning, the male peers laughed at me and ridiculed me instead of guiding me,” says Hira. “As a housewife, I managed to stay determined and not get out of my way. I still come across comments like “Ab shaadi hogayi, kya zarorat hay, ghar betho, bachay paalo” (You are married now, what do you need? Sit at home and take care of your children). My answer is why not? When I have the capacity, why should I settle for less and not hone my skills? “
Hira believes that nothing is impossible if you are ready to make your dreams come true at any cost. “I see more and more girls entering and excelling in their career as a photographer like in any other field. It seemed impossible to me but I kept fighting because I believed in myself.
Overcoming billions of distractions and difficulties along the way, Hira has made a name for herself and believes that “Behind every successful woman is herself.”
Another inspiring story is that of Umbreen Ibrahim (Umbreen Ibrahim Photography), who started his career in 2012, when you could count the number of female photographers on your fingers. Her father, who was in the army, raised her like boys: “The confidence he gave me shaped my personality and made me who I am today,” she says. .
Why are there few female photographers in this field? To that end, Umbreen says, “The number of female photographers is still lower than their male counterparts. Because it is a job that takes a lot of time, we have a truck full of responsibilities and obligations to fulfill, in addition to juggling a professional life.
A woman needs the full support of her family to be successful and I am a perfect example. I could not have worked in this industry without their support. Umbreen sees a lot of potential among aspiring young female photographers. “Right now I see a lot of potential and I would like it to stay that way. But is the main concern still there in the next 10 years? We live in a society dominated by men and regardless of the talent of women; they cannot thrive in their careers without the support of the company.
Harassment in the workplace is a common problem and even female photographers are not spared. Izzah Shaheen Malik, from Pictroizzah, decided to talk about it. She recently took to her Instagram to share her experience where she said she was harassed and intimidated by a highly regarded male photographer in the industry. She was the first of many to speak out against discrimination. There was a disagreement between the two photographers over a technical issue which ultimately led to a bitter struggle. According to Izzah, most male photographers have sided with the oppressor, despite using inappropriate language for the former. Izzah’s stories reveal a dark side to many workplaces where it’s extremely convenient for men to blame and shame women. Even supposedly empowered women find it difficult to speak out against this discrimination.
However, the history of women in photography advances on an optimistic note. Women photographers are still largely underestimated in the art world. But halfway through the story, we see signs of how women are shaping photography for themselves.
One example is the 27-year-old photographer, Rabiya Mughal of Rabiya Mughal Photography, who at a young age managed to build a full-time career out of her passion. “I started taking paid photos when I was 19. Being an introvert, my parents always told me never to give up before trying and that’s how I started. ”
When asked about the gradual change in the industry, she says: “In the beginning, when I started, Karachi was mostly subjugated by male photographers and there weren’t many female photographers you heard from. speak. However, in the last 3-4 years there has been a drastic change in the industry and today there are so many amazingly talented female photographers who are laying a huge foundation for future women to easily step into this. field.
In the wise words of Annie Leibovitz, American portrait photographer, “We don’t stop seeing. We keep on framing. It does not turn off and does not turn on. It’s on all the time.