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Oct-25-2012 13:49printcomments

ART AID - Dubai Based Photographer Shows How

"Photography in hard areas has its challenges, but someone has to do it..." - Fahad Bhatti

Child image by Fahad Bhatti
Child image by Fahad Bhatti

(LONDON) - In today’s world the role of humanitarian aid agencies and the need to effectively highlight the impact of their projects has become crucial and as a consequence so has the role of photographers who work alongside documenting the crisis and steps taken to aid the needy.

At a time of global recession with governments budgeting and less donors, disasters haven’t lessened, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2010 some 27.5 million people were displaced internally by conflict or violence with an additional 42.3 million forced to flee due to natural disasters.

The need to highlight the work of aid agencies has become imperative and no can depict the reality of the pain of loss of life, of loved ones, of hunger and poverty than a photographer who can capture an image for posterity.

Fahad Bhatti is one such photographer, he may have started off as a fashion photographer but is now concentrating on ‘Art Aid’ by focusing his lens in areas where most would fear to tread, taking photos of the plight of wide eyed starving children caught up in conflict and undernourished women and old people struggling for the simple basics of life.

Fahad believes that ‘Art Aid’ can play an important part in creating awareness about the plight of the less fortunate amongst the rich industrial countries that are responsible for the bulk of the world’s resource consumption. He believes it is essential to hold exhibitions and charity events as it is one way to bring the reality of the other world to their doorsteps.

Somali girl by Fahad

He explains: “Photography has played an important part in the making of our history and it will continue to do that on bigger scale now with a global media and internet. People relate to pictures more than anything else, the impact it creates is just amazing. The documentation of a humanitarian crisis by means of photography helps the donors to donate more of their money for the causes they can see for themselves”

A point Sabooh Uddin CEO of Muslim Charity agrees with when he says: “Having a photographer around taking pictures of the suffering helps charity organizations like us in our campaign to raise awareness and collect aid funds”. Fahad may be young but is making an important name for himself in the world of photography, his versatile style and ability to get inside a subject exploring its complexities while delivering an almost spiritual interpretation of mood, emotion and environment is quite unique. His work has been published in a number of local and international publications as well as high profile events like the World Future Energy Summit for the UAE Government, Dubai World Cup, Dubai fashion week, as well as major events in Pakistan, Muscat and Saudi Arabia. At present he is heavily committed to work with charity groups highlighting the plight of the dispossessed.

One of his favourite photographers is Ansel Adams who states: “To photograph truthfully and effectively is to see beneath the surfaces and record the qualities of nature and humanity which live or are latent in all things.”

For Fahad a photographer has the power to change perceptions and tell a story, and that’s one of the reasons he enjoys working in conflict zones. He explains:

“Photography in hard areas has its challenges, but someone has to do it. My experiences has shown that the challenge can bring out the best in one’s work, especially when you work in countries like Pakistan, Somalia and Africa, however before you do go out there you have to do lot of planning , research, and when you get there you have to try and stay safe as possible. All photographers go through it, in the end it’s all about confidence that you can pull of a trip of a lifetime and get some amazing pictures which can make a difference”

“During my work as a war reporter in war torn Swat region of Pakistan amongst the largest internally displaced people on earth, I lived inside the warzone for six days. The fight was between the Taliban and Pakistan army, and millions of people were caught between the crossfire. It changed me spiritually, seeing children suffer for no fault of theirs was heart wrenching”.

Girl in pink and boy in Pakistan - Fahad

He also argues that what we see on most of the media is not the truth and that governments show us only what they want us to see. “It was amazing to meet the local population who with all hardship had the will to help each other and live bravely through it. Even with all that was going on they made sure I was safe and kept well.”

Fahad first got fully immersed in charity work during the Pakistan Floods in 2010. He explains: “A friend of mine told me that one of the main charities involved in flood relief projects was the UK based Muslim Charity. I volunteered to work with them and in the process also took many photographs. They liked my work and asked me to accompany them as a photographer to Somalia”.

His latest pictures of the famine in war torn Somalia has caused a stir, highlighting a region where the only luxury for some people is water and rice; where mothers have had to leave their sick children to die by the way side as they try to get the rest of the children to safety.

The photographer can be reached on “I was shocked by the poverty and tragedy that was Somalia and thought should I just be a photographer who clicks or can I do more. So I decided to use the photos to hold exhibitions and raise as much money as I can for the innocent caught up in the horrors of conflict and the resulting famine and poverty”.

Fahad only became a photographer five years ago after he left a secure bank job as a credit analyst and decided to turn his life around. “When I first started photography I started capturing random objects and focused on street photography, once you are a beginner you want to try everything until that something finds you. Photography has always been a tool to document reality, real emotions and real people or to capture or conceptualize your own emotions and Ideas”.

Fahad believes that photography is a very important part of the wider media, “it’s the only art other than cinema and music that can reach masses. Photography is a powerful tool it can influence and change people’s perceptions, at the same time highlight the true reality, it is no cliché to say that one photograph has the ability to tell the whole story.”

“My projects with Heroin addicts, the People of Swat and Somalia changed me spiritually. It made me thankful for what we have and it also made me aware that we can change the world for the better if we have the will to do it.”



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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.