Photographer Saboor Akram is taking over our Instagram feeds, one AI-generated image at a time

His images of celebrities and superheroes on the streets of Pakistan have create a storm online.
17 Jul, 2023

If you’ve been on Instagram recently, you’ve probably seen some of Saboor Akram’s amazing work. Some of the most interesting pictures of celebrities and superheroes traversing the streets of Pakistan have come from his mind and computer.

The 20-year-old was born in Quetta and raised in Lahore. He’s been taking photos since seventh grade and you probably know him on Instagram as Boorayy__. “Working in depth in my field, I always learnt to have a good grip on lights and compositions. Alongside photography I love films and storyboarding, so when I researched about AI tools, I started using those tools to create images with a detailed overview, in terms of lighting, production, fashion and art direction,” he told Images.

“I [also] used photoshop to colour-grade and manipulate pictures till I would get a detailed visual representation of my concepts!” His photos are incredibly detailed — far more so than any other AI-generated artwork we’ve seen before. From the backgrounds to the characters themselves, his photos have created a storm on social media.

“When I was in Turkey seven months ago, I met a German photographer who was aged yet extremely accomplished in his field. We had a conversation about AI being the new tool every artist is afraid of, just like how painters feared photography replacing the craft of painting or when the invention of computers was feared to replace labour,” he explained.

“However, with time we realised that we needed to evolve with the technology. Rather than fearing it, we need to learn and evolve with it by incorporating it into our art and enhancing it. AI is here to stay, so instead of fearing that it would overtake me, I aimed to showcase to everyone that by being a photographer who has been working for nine years, I can use the same tool and further enhance my craft.”

Akram’s love for comic books helped guide his work. “I love comic books, especially Spider-man. I am so obsessed with Spider-man that when I was 19, I created the first self funded Spider-man fan fiction in Pakistan, so I always wanted to represent Pakistan and South Asian countries on a bigger level,” he said.

“A month ago, I had to undergo a very serious surgery which put me on complete bedrest, so since I was not able to work, I saved up to get [AI programme] Midjourney and experiment with it. While Midjourney and executing my ideas is one thing, I learnt photoshop manipulation, colour theory, pro create and Adobe Illustrator to start crafting the best ideas in my style,” he explained.

But what, you may be wondering, is the purpose of creating AI artwork? “It’s to represent different franchises, concepts, movies and celebrities in light of my country and culture, so we can form some representation across the world!” Akram said. “I also use AI for conceptual posters, showing how I would shoot a certain movie or show like Stranger Things, Spider-Man or Harry Potter if I was ever in the director’s seat.”

He’s a big fan of Spider-Man and superheroes in general, so much so that he created and filmed his own Spider-Man short film when he was 19, which was screened in cinemas. “However, I always wanted to work to represent Pakistan in foreign franchises and platforms — my biggest dream is to introduce a Pakistani Spider-Man to the world, just like how an Indian Spider-Man was introduced. So I would write down ideas and concepts to show various representation of various celebrities and movies if they were based in Pakistan.”

Those concepts and representations have really taken off, getting love from all over social media. Akram is “so overwhelmed” with how “everyone resonated with and loved” his work. “My goal is to represent Pakistan in the brightest light, InshAllah!”