Photographers' Blog

Life on the margins in Pakistan

Islamabad, Pakistan

By Zohra Bensemra

There are so many slums in Pakistan, and they can be home to all sorts of communities – Christians, Shi’ites, Afghan refugees, or Pakistanis fleeing violence or seeking jobs.

But whatever their background, they all face the same struggles in their daily lives. The divisions of religion and nationality are less important than finding clean water, a space to study, or a battered toy for a young child to play with.

Working in these areas requires great respect for the residents, and the photographer must be aware of cultural taboos.

Photographing women is very difficult. There have been several cases where women have been killed because a photograph or a video showed them clapping, laughing or singing. If someone in the slums objects to me taking a photo, I will delete it immediately. It’s not worth making them suffer for an image.

For me, a picture I shot of an empty pink party dress represents the struggle to show many Pakistani women through photography. They may have a good time or wear bright colors but you will rarely be allowed to record it. The dress shows a woman’s presence by her absence.

from Russell Boyce:

“Allah-u-Akbar! God is Great!”

Some pictures still shock me. Some make me laugh; many provide an insight or window into a new idea but only a few haunt me with my mind's eye returning to them again and again.

On Wednesday 28th July an Airblue plane crashed  just outside Islamabad in the beauty spot of the Margalla Hills killing all 152 on board. The cause of the crash, as yet unconfirmed, is thought to have been the driving monsoon rain. I edited the pictures shot by Reuters photographers who reached the scene. Images ranging from smoke drifting through the hills, men scrambling in the charred rocky, woodlands, picking through twisted metal and rocks looking for signs of life; tied cloth bags, dripping with the blood  that contained the remains of the passengers, to a severed arm and hand, the fingers still perfectly formed, just lying on the ground. There were no survivors.

PAKISTAN-CRASH/

Policemen and soldiers raise their hands while shouting "God is great," to lift their spirits as the team worked through heavy rain to search for bodies and a flight data recorder at the site of the Airblue plane crash in Islamabad's Margalla Hills July 29, 2010. Heavy monsoon rains in Islamabad on Thursday hampered recovery efforts at the site of a Pakistani plane crash that killed all 152 people on board a day earlier, a senior police officer said. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

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