The story behind Abdullah’s lens

Abdullah Haris started out as a chartered accountant. Then he got a camera. Mariam Saeed Khan has the story

The story behind Abdullah’s lens
“You don’t take a photograph, you make it,” American photographer and environmentalist Ansel Adams once said.

Photography is the art of capturing a moment that is gone forever. It is easy to own a camera but it requires skill to become a photographer. In a world of high-definition cell phone cameras and selfies, Abdullah Harris has carved a space for himself as a visual artist like no other. In an exclusive tête-à-tête with The Friday Times, Harris talks about his early career, his venture into professional photography and advice for aspiring artists.

MSK: Tell us about your interest in photography. Was it a hobby before it became a career?

AH: I was training to be a chartered accountant when I decided to make the switch to photography. Everywhere I looked, corporate sharks surrounded me. Everyone seemed to be a position-holder and loved mathematics. Me… I wanted to take pictures or make videos. I didn’t see myself sitting in an office with a calculator and auditing books. I stopped going to class and began learning photography. One day my father caught me skipping class. At that moment I told him: I wanted training in photography and videography and he agreed. My first job was with a private news channel where I worked as a production assistant. It sounds fancy but the job literally meant cleaning the floor, taking care of guests, packing gifts and accommodating producers. I was let go because of the “economic crisis in the country”. Mostly, workplace politics led to my departure. I was broke for several months and could not find a stable job. Finally, I landed a gig at a music channel as a producer and director. I never looked back from there. Hadiqa Kiani, Ali Zafar, Irfan Kiani and Ali Xeeshan supported me immensely. They became my best friends.


MSK: You have directed a Lipton advertisement and Shoaib Mansoor’s title video song from the film Bol. How do you develop your ideas? What inspires you?

AH: Inspiration cannot be restricted to one dimension. It can come from anywhere and anyone.

MSK: What made you shift from photography to film making?

AH: Once I started making music videos, I realized there was a lot of demand for brand images. People began to approach me for their products. It was an easy transition from there.

MSK: Describe one moment from your life where you felt you could not do this work anymore?

AH: There are too many. It is a hectic job and there are many egos one has to deal with. Work always looks daunting but in the end, it works out.
"Everywhere I looked, corporate sharks surrounded me. Everyone seemed to be a position-holder and loved mathematics. Me… I wanted to take pictures or make videos"

MSK: How do you get endorsements?

AH: Well, you need people who understand your vision. Finding the right people to work with is the key. I have been lucky. There is always some work for talented and hardworking people.

MSK: What are your plans? Anything exclusive you’d like to share with our readers?

AH: I am eager to do films - something very intense. I will happily share what I am working on with my fans once something is finalized.

MSK: What do you think sets your work apart from the others?

AH: I am a one-man army.

Ali Zafar, Abdullah Haris and Hadiqa Kiani
Ali Zafar, Abdullah Haris and Hadiqa Kiani

MSK: What sort of camera techniques do you use? How can a hobby become a profession?

AH: The technique is simple. Do what you love, love what you do. Shoot what inspires you, shoot what CAN inspire you. And finally, make sure it brings you an income and some respect.

MSK: What sort of challenges did you face when you joined this industry?

AH: A lot of time was spent on the streets, looking for the right locations. Often, I did not have enough money for commuting. I worked days without food sometimes. Hunger and poverty, I would say, were the main challenges.

MSK: Is there any advice you would like to have given to your younger self?

AH: Take it easy. This too shall pass.

MSK: And a message for your fans?

AH: Be inspired. Don’t be influenced. There’s a difference between inspiration and influence. Those who can distinguish it, stand out unique.

Mariam Saeed Khan is blogger and a feature writer. She tweets at @mariamsaeedkhan
Photos: courtesy Abdullah Harris