Mobeen Ansari’s Session with AKR

Monday, January 30, 2017 Heba Moeen 5 Comments


The much acclaimed Greek philosopher, Democritus once said, “Kinship does not make friends, but common interests.” One would strongly agree with these wise words as common interests are what bring us all together; this is evident from a rise in social media groups pertaining to specific interests be these photography, art or any other. Aaj Ka Random is one such group on Facebook that brings under its umbrella those people who have a flair for photography and as the title suggests, it’s rather more about an instinct to capture random things that possess an extraordinary characteristic amidst ordinary surroundings.

And the group is quite real, this is something that most would have realised after attending the session by Mobeen Ansari that the admin arranged at Allaince Francaise. What I really like about this group is that unlike quite some other groups (related to various other topics), people are not constantly trying to find an opportunity to start bashing someone or pulling each other’s legs, this is something strongly emphasised upon in the rules as well. Also, not being allowed to post selfies or food and drink pictures is such an ultimate blessing because there is more to life than just food and drinks, and perhaps the much talked about topic, apparel brands too. There are books, nature and countless other things to talk about that we often tend to ignore and yet find solace in the most mediocre things (alright food is an exception). 

Mobeen was right on time despite those evening chaotic traffic jams and our road-less Karachi, this simply shows how serious and professional he was on his part. He is undoubtedly a great photographer as ascertained by his acuity and artsy nature; apart from that, he is quite a motivational speaker too. This thought can be established without any further ado that Mobeen’s work has a very didactic approach through which he has gone to great lengths towards establishing a positive image of Pakistan and has travelled to places not much explored while he has also highlighted the minorities of the country.

With his story telling stance and being able to see beyond the obvious, he has produced some astounding work which he has published in his book, Dharkan – The Heartbeat of a Nation. No one would have thought about gathering intriguing personalities of Pakistan from yesteryear and the present era to be photographed the way he did. Currently, Mobeen is working on the second version of the same book which is expected soon. As told by him, the image on the cover of his book is that of a gate’s in Swat, just ahead of Mondal Dag. It was painted into a Pakistani flag by the army and the locals as a sign of patriotism as it marked bringing Swat back to norm post Zarb-e-Azb.

He further showed the audience some very astonishing pictures that he had captured throughout his travels in Pakistan, ranging from people of Chitral, Hunza to renowned personalities the Pakistani showbiz has ever produced. One of the pictures that caught the attention of everyone in the room was of a gorgeous little girl who was following him playfully as he journeyed all the way to Thatta, he turned around and was about to click when she told him to wait, pulled her dupatta over her head and posed away. The sheer innocence in her eyes and the lovely smile speak a thousand unsaid words! You simply can’t pull your eyes off her. It takes a photographer to be highly attentive so that he/she clicks on the spur of the moment in order to produce some great work like this; you never know what the next moment would bring you and whether you would be able to freeze it into a memory ... 

Who doesn’t remember or rather doesn’t know Tariq Aziz? At least most know that he was the brains behind the television game show, Neelam Ghar in Pakistan and has been the pioneer of such games shows in general. “How old do you think he is?” asked Mobeen, some said 70 while some said 75, the maximum anyone could reach was the figure, 80. “He is 89 years old ...,” he corrected us, thus having our jaws drop as everyone gasped in surprised. This talented person’s photography would just make you nostalgic and make you want to time travel again to your childhood when nonchalance was perhaps a norm and worries few. Tariq Aziz after all these years has the same demeanour and the same dressing style, nothing about him has changed, he hasn’t even aged much! See for yourself.

The picture below would make you want to travel to Hunza right away; it’s so vibrant and powerful in its own way. 

Emaan Ali’s picture that he snapped highlight’s her beauty in black and white while showcasing Mobeen’s own reflection in the window while capturing the picture itself, this simply adds more meaning to the entire composition, apart from the extremely beautiful subject.

Over the years, he has made it a point to not just get done with his work but to create everlasting relationships even with those who wouldn’t understand his language. Some people in Chitral and Hunza that he has photographed serve as an example. According to the tip he shared, if he takes 20 to 30 minutes for a person’s photo shoot, he spends a major chunk of time establishing rapport with that person and spends the last 5 minutes in actually taking the photograph. Below is the picture of the lady he had visited and revisited over the years, he showed us three pictures with the aging process being very evident hence time is what you see other than the lady herself. Time is of the essence, so is photography …

Mobeen loves to capture people, eras and times apart, though for obvious reasons the first picture below wasn’t taken by him (he didn’t exist why else? :) ) he made sure that he brings both musicians together again after all these years, Alamgir and Aamir Zaki! Alamgir used to sing at cafés until he was discovered by somebody from radio/television and then he brought Aamir Zaki along. One can see the same level of excitement and bonding in both the images. For some odd reason, Alamgir’s tale of struggle during the early phase of his career (he only had a guitar and a few clothes when he used to sing at a café at Tariq Road and barter for his dinner) has relevance to what William Shakespeare wrote in As You Like It (ahh school days ...):

        Under the greenwood tree
    Who loves to lie with me,
    And turn his merry note
    Unto the sweet bird's throat,
    Come hither, come hither, come hither:
            Here shall he see
            No enemy
    But winter and rough weather.

    Who doth ambition shun
    And loves to live i' the sun,
    Seeking the food he eats,
    And pleased with what he gets,
    Come hither, come hither, come hither:
            Here shall he see
            No enemy
    But winter and rough weather.

He is currently working another edition of his book which is expected soon.Towards the end, Mobeen played his silent documentary highlighting an unsung hero who goes to the depth of filth quite literally to make our lives easier and clean. It’s about a person, Masih who cleans gutters and ekes out a living through the most depressing and disgusting job possible, diving into overflowing manholes, meanwhile trying to keep the city clean. Here’s the trailer:

So the next time you feel frustrated with your job, watch this and thank God for the job you have because that’s what I did just then. We always ask for something better and something worth a higher value but this documentary would suffice to make you beyond satisfied with what you have.

Something that made me take a sigh of relief is that though I’m among the minority of Nikon users, Mobeen being a very professional photographer is one of them, Nikon does wonders actually and you should have a good sense of observation too.
And yes … the water cooler! The ‘yeh water cooler aap ka huwa’ came to life from just being rendered a mere metaphor these years. The admin of the group gave Mobeen a water cooler. Now he will never be thirsty again! 

One of the group admins, Sajid Dadabhoy presenting the water cooler to Mobeen (Photo Credit: Obaid Chawla)

Disclaimer: I have picked photographs from Mobeen's own Facebook page for this post unless otherwise stated.


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  1. Thanks, what a wonderfully written blog. Much appreciated.
    Ek waataar cooler aap ka beh huwa !

    1. Thanks, SD! Though I'm still not convinced for the blue one. Hahaha!

  2. Really interesting read, Hiba! And I really like how you've picked some photos from Mubeen's collection and talked about them in more detail :)

    1. Thanks for dropping by, Rimsha. Let's go on a photography expedition some day. :)


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