Meet Zainab Mufti And Her Pixel Passion

Golden hour at Badamwari. #Throw?

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Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
Harriet Tubman

With Kashmir believes in encouraging young minds to do what they love to do and bring their talent to the fore. It is only passion and ultimate dedication that can yield fruitful results.

We continue our ‘Trendsetters Series’ with a rather young artist from Kashmir who has been taking really wonderful photos and her Instagram account is gaining popularity by the day. 18-year-old Zainab, a humanities student, believes photography is her ultimate passion and being able to do it in Kashmir is a blessing. At such a young age, although this is just the start of her career, Zainab is surely a Trendsetter.

Q: Tell us about yourself, your hobbies, and what you’re passionate about.

A: I am a twelfth class student studying human sciences in conflict-torn Kashmir.

Well, my hobbies include reading, surfing the net, and sleeping over my textbooks!

Reading includes everything- from big fat novels to skinny newspapers and online write-ups. While surfing the internet involves refreshing social media feeds and YouTubing history lessons, switching to TED talks and ending up watching English standup comedy.

And falling asleep on textbooks is every student’s hobby! I need not explain this one! Young readers of With Kashmir would surely know the reasons, and adults have been there, so they know too!

Trees are the poems the earth writes upon sky.

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Coming to passion-
There are three things I am passionate about, photography, writing, and speaking- in that order.

Q: What inspired you to ‘Zainab’s Pixel Passion’?

A: ‘Zainab’s Pixel Passion’ wasn’t a rapid decision. I had been sharing my pictures on my personal Instagram account. Earlier, I used to click pictures to keep my Instagram active; and now, I found myself drowned in the urge to share ‘beauty around’ with a larger audience.

As soon as I finished my tenth class half yearly exams, I created my public photography page. Nature inspired me in initial stages, my pictures had more to do with sunsets and sunrises, but now it orbits around people and their daily struggles.

A boy poses for a picture with arms inside his pheran on a cold winter day in outskirts of Srinagar city

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Q: How important is the equipment in photography for starters?

A: Least important. Emphasis on LEAST.
As they say, “Photography is my ability to show you the things you would never see.” A DSLR doesn’t qualify you as a professional photographer. I have seen mobile photographers clicking pictures that are far better than the ones clicked using high-powered gears. Photography has more to do with your ‘vision’. Your eye is your camera. It’s your ability to find strange in ordinary. Whether it’s a mere phone click or a RAW format picture, it doesn’t matter.

Q: Your work has a different touch to it. It makes you stand out from the lot. The composition of the pictures gives viewers a whole new dynamics of the scene. Where did you learn this from?

A: I am still an amateur. Lots of practice and no turning back.

Though, the internet has been my best friend! I have read about different rules in photography using the internet. I have learnt about camera settings and adjustments from youtube. But so far, I’ve never approached any professional in my life to ‘teach’ me photography. Practising has helped a lot.

Q: How different you think your work would’ve been had you not been a Kashmiri?

A: That’s a thought provoking question! I never imagined not being a Kashmiri and clicking pictures.

Q: Your portraits are amazing as well, you think it has to do something with indigenous people and their faces?

A: Well, I think ‘red cheeks’ in my portraits are quite indigenous!

Jokes and trends apart, I see the pain in the eyes of people. They have been through so much. Their lives are torn apart by the political turmoil. I, being a Kashmiri, look into their eyes and leave with teary eyes as well. The pain and suffering of the people is pretty much relatable.

I think if I go to some other place, I would find it a bit difficult to establish that connection with my subject, and I believe that answers the previous question as well. Every human has a blend of pain and joy in his expression. But, I can relate to a Kashmiri’s pain more easily as I have been through the same.

Snot-nose, Apple cheeks, Dry skin, Eyes deep as ocean. #Portraits #monochromephotography #ckportraits

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Q: What genre of photography fascinates you the most?

A: Street Photography! Nothing more than that. I love to capture street life. It’s because the variety you see in a street. Busy and idle people, poor and rich, calm and angry, combining these contrasting things in a single frame can give you a perfect street shot, and I am always in search of it.

Q: Your photo story on With Kashmir titled ‘Death in Family’ received very positive responses from the readers. Tell us something about that story that made it touch the strings of so many hearts.

A: I wrote it as a tribute to my grandfather who was very dear to me. I had to muster a lot of courage to do that photo story to express how this loss truly affected us; however, death is inevitable and a part of life.
The response I received from the readers was overwhelming!

Every person who has witnessed the death of a dear one undergoes same emotions. I just penned it down.

Q: You must’ve faced a lot of hurdles to be where you are right now. Can you share your journey with us and the moments that motivated/encouraged and the ones that demotivated you?

A: As I said I love street photography, I think this genre has got maximum hurdles. Especially, when you are shooting on the streets of Kashmir. I have been stopped from taking street shots by the trespassers. And to mention one such episode-

I was at Lal Chowk and it was the golden hour (sunset time). I raised my camera lens to get a silhouetted street view. A middle-aged man came from nowhere and he blocked the camera lens with his hand. He frowned and gestured me to put my camera down. Without saying a word, he walked away.

Months later, I was out to shoot some street portraits. Most of the people didn’t allow me to take their pictures.

Q: Why do you think this happens?

The reason isn’t hidden. It’s fairly understood that due to the political instability, Kashmiris suspect every normal thing to be the oppressor’s plan to harm them in a way or the other. And this makes it difficult as well as dangerous for a photographer to shoot on the streets.

My friend was once clicking a street shot and when people saw him, they ran after him and called him a government agent. The political situation here impacts everything and photography is too impacted. The risk is high and the struggle is real, but pictures are worth it!

Motivation comes from reviews. The appreciating texts from professional photographers inspire me to work harder. Texts like “Keep moving on” and “you are doing great” take me to cloud nine. And I would brag about it.

Not only professionals, sometimes texts from common people too motivate me. Once a Kashmiri living outside state texted me, “Your pictures make me feel less homesick”. Now if your frames feed the soul of a person who is away from home, what heavier excuse you want to keep going.

Also, critics have helped me improve. I would rather be saved by criticism than ruined by praise.

Demotivation is nowhere. I am at a stage where not even an hour long lecture on “photography is useless” will demotivate me. I have confidence in what I am doing. Moreover, keeping an optimistic approach towards whatever is happening around really helps.

Q: How supportive has your family been with the art that you do?

A: My family has been partially supportive. Photography has a lot do with travelling. Especially, if you are inclined towards street photography.

I don’t hear, “go wherever you want to” from my parents, nor “sit home, you are’t going anywhere”.

I am allowed to go places and that’s great. Although, like every asian parent, my parents keep on scolding me to focus more on studies than photography. That keeps coming since I have to appear in the much-hyped Board exams.
But everything’s going smoothly. Pictures are taken and chapters are studied as well.

Besides all this, I come from a family of doctors, engineers, teachers, businessmen and scientists. No artists. Due to this reason, there’s little concept of my family that taking art as a career option can help, so yeah, tough times ahead in convincing them!

Q: Where do you see yourself in next 5 years?

A: Five years is quite a lot of time, I wouldn’t predict where I would exactly be. But definitely, chasing my goals, rooted to the ground.

“The reason birds can fly and we can't is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings.”

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Q: What are your dream places you want to visit and click pictures there?

A: The world is huge and there’s too much to see. I am always high on travelling and I think travelling to a far-flung village in my homeland makes as much sense to me as travelling overseas. Every place is a dream place, however, I would want to explore more of Kashmir first, then cross the borders.

As they say, I would rather be in the mountains thinking of God than be in the church thinking of mountains.

Q: You like to explain a lot with quotations, dont you?

Lastly, what is your advice to other young girls in general, and girls from Kashmir in particular?

A: Girls!
Here’s to all the girls:
Grow up! Grow strong! Don’t belittle yourselves. Don’t get demotivated. Do whatever you feel like doing. There’s nothing you cannot do. Go tighten the screws, develop software, lift weights and learn boxing! There’s nothing masculine about the mentioned fields.

Lastly, (if applicable) stop running after the guys who won’t text you back. Focus on your goals. These puppy love stages will lead you to nowhere. To all those sixteen-year-old girls finding the love of their life, go study differences between reflection and refraction. You shouldn’t be searching love even ten years after you memorise the differences! Okay? Okay.
Be a badass!
Do what you love, and don’t give a damn to “lukh kya wanan” ideology.

Follow Zainab’s Pixel Passion on Instagram @zainab_mufti24

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