It seems so easy: Buying a great camera, taking some pictures, making some videos and all of a sudden the world loves you for your content, right? Not really! The path of a photographer/cinematographer is a hard one. Even the greatest camera can do nothing without an even better eye behind the lense. I talked to Aleem Bukhari, a freelance photographer/cinematographer from Lahore, Pakistan about his passion. His fire for visual art ignited just a few years ago and he is just at the beginning of his path. His art is nevertheless stunning and worth talking about it.
Yeah, My name is Aleem Bukhari (20 years old). I'm from Hyderabad, Pakistan and currently living in Lahore. I work as a freelance photographer/cinematographer, while focusing on my personal independent projects.
I think maybe 2 or 3 years back, my brother got a DSLR. But what happened was I ended up using it more than him, which led to my shift from digital artwork to photography. It started off as just a hobby, then I moved on to a more professional aspect of it. I have been making short films/documentaries and I'm doing photoshoots since then.
I'm not sure about direct influence, but these are some of the people I'm Inspired by: Photographers would be William Eggleston, Bill Henson, Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Filmmakers would be Jim Jarmusch, PTA, Wong Kar Wai, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, David Lynch, Park Chan Wook, Andrzej Żuławski, Anurag Kashyap. I started off as a digital artist, so I look up to more painters like Beksinski and musicians like Fursy Teyssier than photographers or filmmakers usually.
I mean, I have been doing digital painting for almost three years now. Digital painting and illustration related work under the Alias of "No Life Doodler", before my interests in filmmaking and photography really kicked in.
Ah well, that's a tricky question I get asked a lot. I can put it this way, for me it isn't really dark, you know? It is just what I see to be real. My themes and concepts are very personal, and none of them can go along with a lighter mood. My work usually ranges from themes of isolation, anxiety, depression and a self-love/self-hate dynamic, so the dark mood comes naturally to me.
Yes, of course, that is why I started creating art in the first place. I put all my emotions and experiences into my art, otherwise I don't know what I'll do with all this stuff building up inside me. Its the only thing I can use to express myself, that's why my artwork is extremely personal.
Basically what I wanted to do was create something authentic, something personal and something that is generally not addressed here in Pakistan - actually not just Pakistan but everywhere. Sexual exploitation or abuse is a topic that for a long time people have been reluctant towards. It's scary that a total of almost 3,000 cases of sexual child abuse in Pakistan were reported in 2015. That means 10 children were abused per day. It's horrifying. We need to protect our children you know? Growing up, I experienced things similar that are there in my short film. Getting exposed to sexual content at an early age and abuse as well. For reasons I don't know, I was always so reluctant to talk about this almost as if I was embarrassed to admit that it happened. Eventually, I realized it because I personally know how much of an impact something like that can have on a person and I wanted more people to be aware of it, to talk about it and that this isn't right.
It depends what sort of work do you relate it with. It is very important for me to work with people who are just as much passionate about art as I am. I can't work with someone who is not willing to give and sacrifice all for it. I'm very picky about people in that sense. I need to have creative and likeminded people around me. So when it comes to photography, I only collaborate with people who have a clear vision of their own and who also understand my vision. I go through their portfolio and observe how they are as a person before deciding to work with them.
When it comes to film, I have mostly collaborated with my friends. I usually don't have the budget to hire professional actors, so like every other independent film you go for friends and family who are willing to work with you. My latest short film "Below the Sun" consists only of non-professional actors. They are people who I didn't even know. I just went around the streets (the locations I was gonna shoot in), asked around and see who was willing to work on a film and to my surprise, a lot of them were pretty excited for it! Then I just auditioned some of the people and chose them.
Oh man, the photography and videography scene is quite divided in Pakistan. I could say I'm somewhat unhappy with it. Not just because it's not giving me the space I want or something. I'm not saying this out of self-pity. I just feel like I don't see anything so amazing coming out of here, you know? Something that you'd look at and go "Oh man I should have done that, this is fucking amazing!" It barely happens and it is quite depressing knowing the fact that a lot of people here claim to be "artists".
I think it is very important to have that sort of excitement rather than just a flood of content drowning in mediocrity. You barely see any cinematographer or a videography crew working towards something of their own. Like in India, you have TVF creating their own web series and stuff. Here, it is mostly wedding photography, brand commercials or those "funny" vine videos, which I'm not saying is a bad thing. It is great and everyone has the right to make a living and they should! I repeat, we need to make a living out of our work, but the problem is it doesn't make or invoke any space for creativity or originality. So I guess there's very little audience for more artistic photography/filmmaking work here in Pakistan, but then there are artists like Mooroo, who are constantly expanding that space. I just hope it doesn't end at that. What he's doing is great, but if someone else started doing the same it wouldn't be great, would it?
Yeah that's what I mean here, not exactly, but yes. People are more concerned about the hits and likes. It is sad when it's more about what's "trending" than an artist's own vision. It's not even just about the story or something really "important", It's actually about the quality of content. Instead of doing new things, most people have found this one formula and they stick to repeating it again and again and again. You know, there's this one thing Harmony Korine said in an interview and it'll always stick with me for the rest of my life. He said something like "Do what's not been done before. Don't even get started, if you're gonna do some mediocre shit. Don't do it just to make noise, there's too much noise." I guess that sums it up."
Well yes, basically my close friend Awais Baloch and I, we started skateboarding and our plan was to get more people to skate with us. The skateboarding scene is almost non-existent in Pakistan. You could say we both were pretty much the only two people in Hyderabad who were Skating at that time. We found people online throughout Pakistan who were skateboarding, but they all faced similar problems as we did. This project started like after 2-3 years of us skateboarding, I was leaning more towards my interests in film making and I felt like I had something to say, so that's how it started.
It never really picked up. We lack resources, there are literally no shops here, where one could get a skateboard from, so it's difficult to get your hands on a proper skateboard. Then there are no places to skate and most of the population isn't even aware that this is a sport. We tried to make people aware of it, we started skating, we made a Facebook page and we would constantly post there to reach more people, but I guess it didn't work. We made that documentary hoping more people would be interested, but it just died down. I think maybe it's just not the right time.
The only goal I have for the future is making films. I want to make and create art that I want to create. I don't see anything else that I'd be doing. Sure, there might be options but they're not really what I'm gonna pursue. I just want to be happy doing what I do, which sometimes can be an extremely difficult thing. I think any other artist reading this will get it but it has it's own rewards, too.
On a more practical note, I want to shoot a short film, on which I'm brainstorming right now. I would love to work as a cinematographer or art director on a project that is to my taste. So if anyone who likes my work and is reading this, hire me, HAHA! But for now it's just baby steps focusing on my mental health and my work while maintaining my sanity.