Fractured by Partition as the British left the subcontinent in 1947, Pakistan was created as an independent Muslim nation 70 years ago. Officially named the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the country is the fifth-most populous in the world with a population exceeding 207 million. Between 1994 and 2009 I travelled there nine times, and the images presented here represent a small slice of the moments I captured in a country that remains an enigma to many. In a visual sense, Pakistan is what I’ve called a phantasmagorical place, where intrigue, wisdom, fear, majesty, history, modernity and one of the oldest cultures of humanity coexist in an uneasy tension.
From the towering mountains of the Hindu Kush in the northern areas, to the inscrutable landscape of the tribal areas in the west, to its vibrant and challenging urban centers, Pakistan is one of the most extraordinary yet complex countries in which I’ve ever worked.
The selection of images here are not political, nor are they merely cultural. They form a travelogue with attitude. I want these images to stand as testimony to the intensity and mystery of what I felt so often in my many travels through Pakistan.
Worker at Khewra Salt Mines, 1997.
Scene along the Balloki Headworks, part of the British built canal system, in the Punjab, 2009.
(Left) Worshippers in the courtyard during Friday prayers at the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan, 2009. (Right) Camel ritual slaughter for Eid Ul Azha, in memory of Prophet Abraham’s sacrifice of his son, 2009.
Backstage preparations at the Al Fala Theatre in Lahore, 2009.
A Kalash woman works in a cornfield, 1997.
Tug-of-war at Aitcheson College, an all-boys school in Lahore, 1998.
(Left) Badly burned, a woman awaits plastic surgery at a Lahore hospital after her husband allegedly held her face to a stove, 1997. (Right) A man in the camel camp at the Sibi Mela Camel Festival, Balochistan, Pakistan, 1998.
Malik Fazal Abbas Mahay with his horses, 2009. Malik is one of the most powerful and respected feudal lords in Multan.
The Day of Ashura (Ashoura) is on the 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar and is commemorated by Shia Muslims as a day of mourning for the martyrdom of Hazrat (Husayn) ibn Ali, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad. Each year, Shi’as march through the Lahore’s Old City and the men and boys beat their fists against their chests and bloody themselves in traditional flagellation to symbolize Ali’s suffering.
Travelers await inspection at a security checkpoint in Mingora patrolled by Pakistani Army soldiers, 2009.
A farmer in the Northern Areas of Pakistan getting ready to carry a large bulk from the wheat harvest, 1998.
(Left) Prostitutes greet a potential customer in the Heeramindi Bazaar in Lahore’s Old City, 1998. (Right) Father and son miners in the Khewra Salt Mines, 1998.
Pathans inspect homemade kalishnakovs in a gun shop in Landi Kotal, a town on the border with Afghanistan in the tribal Northwest Fontier Province, 1997.
(Left) This local women’s organization began in 1984, 14 years before this photo was taken in 1998. The women would meet weekly to discuss local issues, like saving money to invest in village agricultural projects to generate income. (Right) Women in the village of Sharqpur queue up to cast their votes while soldiers guarantee a peaceful election day, 1998.
A pipe band marches through Aliabad on the Karakoram Highway in preparation for the Aga KhanÕs visit, 1998.
Mohamed Sadiq, 60, a barber for 40 years, runs business in Fawara Chauk (Fountain Square) in city of Rawalpindi, 1998.
A carnival in Balochistan, 1998.
(Left) A family of fisherman prepare their nets to work in the Indus River in Pakistan, 1998. (Right) Men crowd together at the Sibi Mela Camel Festival in Sibi Mela, Balochistan, Pakistan, 1998.
A roadside foodstand along the Karakorum Highway, 1998.
Armed guards during Friday prayers at the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan, 2009.