From Lahore with Love: An Interview with Pakistani Photographer Sonya Rehman
Q: How did you originally get into photography?
A: I started taking touristy photos during grad school in the US in 2009. It was only until I came back to Pakistan (in 2010), that I developed this newfound love for my birth city, Lahore. I don’t profess to be a professional photographer; I’m still quite the rookie. Also, as of late, I’ve developed a deep interest in portrait photography.
Q: Tell us about the From Lahore with Love project.
A: Oh it happened pretty quickly. So when I got back to Lahore, I began uploading photos that I’d taken of Lahore in an album on Facebook. Got great feedback from loved ones, and then, a close friend casually suggested that I ought to make them into postcards. The penny dropped and ‘From Lahore With Love’ was initiated in 2012.
Q: How does photographing Lahore differ from Western cities such as New York or London?
A: Well, when you live in a city all your life, you take a lot of things for granted: people, places, new developments in the city, etc. You overlook stuff. When you’re travelling, you go a little loco taking pictures because everything is new to the eye. So, whenever I’m out and about, I literally keep my eyes peeled for interesting things to photograph. I also psyche myself into tourist mode, so that way I wind up taking quite a few photos during one outing.
Q: Do you see yourself as a photojournalist or an artist? Is reportage a route that you would consider going down?
A: That’s a great question. I’ve never thought of that to be honest. I always wanted to be an artist. After my schooling, my dream was to become a painter. But due to family pressure I wound up studying Finance (horrifying, horrifying experience). But to answer your question, I don’t consider myself a photojournalist – because photojournalism relies on a sequence of photos that tell a particular story. My photos vary from buildings to parks, street food, etc. I only consider myself a writer/journalist, and yes, a ‘postcard-maker’ because it sounds fancy.
Q: Which photographers have influenced you in your practice?
A: I absolutely love the work churned out by Rahat Ali Dar, Mobeen Ansari, Asim Rafiqui, Saad Sarfraz Sheikh, Muzi Sufi, Khaula Jamil and a few others.
Q: What is it about Lahore that makes it such a photogenic city for you?
A: The Great Divide: the ‘new’ Lahore: international brands and foreign fast food outlets galore and ‘old’ Lahore, the Old City – hanging onto its heritage and culture for dear life. I like the shallowness and depth of the city.
Q: What are you favourite sites in Lahore – either hidden gems or cultural attractions?
A: For my postcards, I can’t get enough of the Old City: the Fort, the Badshahi Mosque, the Wazir Khan Mosque, Anarkali, Food Street, etc. It’s a completely different world. Very rich.
Q: What other cities are your favourite to photograph? And do you have any intention of expanding the postcards project to more countries?
A: I’d love to go to Multan and do an entire series on its mausoleums and shrines – it has been done to death, but I’d really like to see what I could bring to the table with a photo series on Multan. No, I don’t think I’d ever expand my project to other countries: not done with Lahore or Pakistan, for that matter, yet.
Q: Are there any other new projects on the horizon?
A: Yes, I’m due to launch cute little postcard boxes very soon so that people may buy the postcards in bulk. I’m currently desperately trying to stock my postcards at 1-2 bookshops in Lahore, so that I may reach a wider audience, but haven’t been very lucky so far. I’m still trying, so fingers crossed.
By Thomas Storey