Foreign travel writers and photographers have highlighted Pakistan’s tourist attractions and topography, its people, food, cultural diversity and famous sites but few have peeped into deep inner cities and the life of people living in narrow lanes.

Michael Paulo, a German photographer, is among the very few who have captured the life and heritage of the country in its true perspective through the lens of camera.

An exhibition of Mr Paulo’s photographs titled ‘Urban Walks’, that opened at Islamabad's Gallery 6 on Friday, highlights Pakistan’s inner-city life, narrow alleys and the burgeoning problems of noisy traffic, hustle bustle of bazaars as well as the crumbling pre-partition architectural heritage and natural beauty of Gilgit-Baltistan.

German Ambassador Martin Kobler, who opened the show, appreciated the photos on display and the “deep love of the photographer for the land, culture and people of Pakistan”.

“Although I am an avid traveller and have visited many areas of the country, the pictures on display unveil new aspects of Pakistani life, cultural diversity and the landscape,” the ambassador said.

“Capturing people’s faces, expressions, joys and feelings, is not an easy job; it is an art,” Mr Kobler said, and introduced his Spanish counterpart Manuel Duran who has recently assumed his office in the capital.

Talking to Dawn, Ambassador Duran said although I am new in the city, these photographs have enriched my knowledge about the cultural diversity and people of Pakistan.Mr Paulo spoke about how he started photowalks in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Karachi.

He said he wanted to promote Pakistan as a destination for street photographers and hopes to bring them together.

Photowalking is an activity of camera enthusiasts who gather in a group to walk around with a camera for taking pictures of things that interests each of them.

The photographs on display reflect Mr Paulo’s keen interest to observe and understand Pakistan closely, commented Gallery 6 Director Dr Arjumand Faisal, an established artist himself.

“He has not visited popular tourist places but wandered in narrow lanes and bustling streets in city centres.

“In these places, he has not only captured the moods and colours of the people but also the lights and shades capturing the aura of the places,” Dr Arjumand said.

Over 30 photographs, including three photos of Pakistani photographers, are on display.

Talking to Dawn about his photographs, Mr Paulo said: “Pakistan is one of the most interesting countries; it has some of the best places in the world for street photography; every city has its own kind of bazaars and architecture; and the deeper you get, the more you can explore – from abandoned havelis to hidden mosques.”

About his passion for street photography, he said during my work in Afghanistan between 2011 and 2014, my movement was strictly limited and I could not really get in touch with people. So I ventured out on business trips with my camera and took pictures.

“In every corner you come across ancient bazaars and markets. In the labyrinth of narrow alleys, palaces are squeezed into the neighbourhood. The skyline is framed by mosques and temples,” he added.

It was the walled city of Lahore which fascinated him first.Under the theme, ‘Across the walled city – from Delhi Gate to Lahore Fort’, the photographer has captured the life of the walled city such as ‘The camel’, ‘At the Gold Market’ and ‘Smiles at the spice market’.

The second year he spent in Rawalpindi romancing with the skyline of mosques and temples, capturing the photos of Jamia Masjid and Sujjan Singh Haveli.“This year I explored Karachi and the Empress Market became my favourite location for photography,” he said.

The exhibition is complimented by pictures taken from Gilgit-Hunza to Karachi between 2014 and 2018, such as ‘The wedding dancer in Hunza’, ‘The free rider of Kohistan’, ‘At Lulusar Lake’, ‘The camel smiles’, ‘No fear’ in Uch Sharif .

The show will continue through Nov 25 from 11am to 7pm.


Originally published in Dawn, November 24th, 2018

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