A couple of weeks ago, me and some friends spent a day in the seaside town of Brighton. For some strange reason beyond me, I had always expected it to be a moody, gloomy and grey place. Foggy and drizzly images of Brighton are all I recall seeing in popular media. As soon as my friends and I stepped out of the train station that morning, all my expectations were shattered. Not that I was complaining. Sunshine is always welcome - especially at this time of year, when the days are getting shorter and shorter. The rest of our time was spent exploring hipster streets, eating some of the most amazing seafood ever, people-watching on the pier, trying to start a campfire by the beach after sunset, flinging pebbles into the air and hunting for coins on the ground, just to have some cheap thrills at the arcade. It really was one of those perfect, carefree days. If you don't count the train ride from hell on the way back, that is. Nonetheless, Brighton, I will definitely be seeing you again. Thank you for being so beautiful.
Very often something as simple as a sound or sight can fire up long-forgotten childhood memories, sending me into the past to relive that moment.
Take the clack of a trotting horse. As soon as I hear it, my very first memory flashes before my eyes, as vividly as a movie. Everywhere I look, I see white. Snow, I presume. Snow on the roads, snow on the trees, snow on the mountains. Even the sky is white. I am moving forward, with an icy breeze in my face. My attention is devoted to the blur of dark figures that I pass by, but I soon realise that I'm in fact sitting on a horse. A white horse. Eventually I tire out and slowly place my head against the back of his neck, burying my stubby fingers into his mane, tightening my grip. And then my memory too fades out into white. My mother, skeptically, tells me I couldn't possibly remember this since it happened when I was only a year old, on a trip to Murree. Perhaps she's right, with infantile amnesia and all.
The sound of crows cawing immediately makes me break out into a sweat. I'm transported back to the balmy month of June, at some undistinguishable age, lying on the floor of my grandmother's home in Karachi. The air is still. I take slow, deep breaths. The marble floor does its best to fight off the heat that's gripping my body as I stare through a netted window at the dust covered leaves of a black plum tree, the crows fooling around beyond the tree, and the black kites soaring like kings even further away in the heavens. I close my eyes and all I hear is the soft whirr of a neighbour's electrical generator, periodically interrupted by the commotion of these crows.
And as such, I have many triggers and memories hidden away, which every now and then take me back to Pakistan. My favourite though, is a particularly milky shade of pink that stirs up sensations of bliss - the colour of Kashmiri chai sipped on rainy winters, the colour of dusty sunsets spent on rooftops.
The reason why I bring up this topic of memories in Pakistan is because over this past summer, I spent six weeks in Karachi. It's the longest time I've spent there in a single stretch. No matter what people say or what you're made to believe through sensationalised news stories, it is a painfully beautiful country, full of gems, full to the brim with untapped potential. Pakistan is a country close to my heart and if you were following me on social media, you'll know that I had an immensely fulfilling time there.
I did have my doubts though. I was a little hesitant and resistant towards the idea of being there for so long, but by the end, I felt the same hesitance and resistance as I was boarding my flight back. The first few days there I felt like I had lost my direction in life, after being separated from the comfort and security of my regular routine. Living alone in London for two years has changed me in some ways (mostly for the better, I'd like to think), but spending time with family I grew up with reminded me of an age of pristine innocence. Every now and again I would recall things that I used to do in my younger days, unostentatious and uninhibited. It really was a time of self-rediscovery and I remembered the many things that really make me who I am today. I guess in order to find your way sometimes you do need to get a little lost first.
Refreshed, I hope to get back onto my creative journey with a stronger direction, filled with more purposeful intention. For some time now, my presence on the blog has been less than optimal. I've been questioning a lot of the things that I do, which lead me to scrapping drafts left, right and centre. Mediocracy is something that I often speak about and never want present in my work. But at the same time, I'm also letting go of the idea of perfection - nothing is truly perfect. If you do something, simply do it with all your heart and to the best of your capabilities and knowledge. If mistakes are made, take it as a learning opportunity and grow.
I wait for the cool breeze; it cuts the thick, humid afternoons into pieces - like a fragmenting river through fertile banks, like a piece of honeycomb as it hits the floor. Another summer day, speckled with pink dust and the calls of crows, goes by.
Editorial content here on the blog has been lacking as of late, which is why I'm thrilled to finally be able to share these images from my latest shoot with everyone. After a long time working with similar themes and concepts, I wanted to try out new ideas and create something a little different to my usual aesthetic. It's a subtle change, but baby steps, right? I tend to feel comfortable repeating similar styles or ideas when it comes to photography, and it's good too to have your own signature, but it's when you step out of your comfort zone that you really grow and learn more about yourself.
Over the last couple of months I've been proactively exploring new magazines, websites, photographers and artists, in order to expand my views not only on fashion (which can be very luxury-oriented and pretentious a lot of the time) but also on culture, society and our current generation as a whole. Now I'm not saying that I've done a complete 360° in my photographs to reflect all of this - far from that. I'm still at a stage of processing all the information and making connections. I'm still learning and how to incorporate and reflect them through fashion photography.
For this set of photos, I've reverted to my old practice of being a one-man-crew on set. I enjoy collaborating with other people, like stylists and make-up artists, but I felt like this shoot needed some form of intimacy. I wanted it to feel like a whisper. Although you can't see what it's like on set, the mood and vibes are still somewhat evident in the photos. The inspiration for this story comes from the idea of leaving a soirée in the early hours of the morning. Rather than feeling melancholic that the party is over, our muse continues to dance and be filled with life, choosing to begin a new day.
After a long summer break (four months to be precise), this final week of September marks the start of a new semester at university. And it's absolutely glorious. Going back to school equates to going back to a familiar routine. While I'm not the biggest fan of the nine-to-five-zombie sort of lifestyle, I'm definitely a person who requires some kind of structure. Call me crazy, but I feel so much more alive and motivated when my plate is too full.
When I have too much free time, my attention, energy and thoughts tend to get misdirected. Once that happens, it simply spirals out of control. Rather than being productive, I find myself sleeping at sunrise, after completing yet another series on Netflix. Very often over the last several weeks, feelings of being overwhelmed by nothingness has clouded my creativity, making me struggle to get any work done. As a result, I haven't been up to par with sharing my photos and experiences here on the blog either. In short, I was stuck in a major rut over the summer - both professionally and in my personal life.
Ever since returning to London a week and a half ago, however, I've really been feeling inspired in so many different ways. I've been making a conscious effort to alter my lifestyle for the better. I've adopted healthier eating and sleeping habits. I've been meeting new people and having honest conversations. I've been feeling thankful for everything in my life. Now, I'm finally seeing things turn around. Who'd have known that being on vacation for too long could be a bad thing, eh?
I'm looking forward to the next couple of weeks as I settle into my new routine and discover what awaits me - hopefully, more clarity and less fears and doubts. I'll be sharing more of what went down over the summer as well, so watch this space!
Photo assistance - Sarah Wong
Wearing: Pal Zileri - Shirt // COS - Sweater // Forever 21 - Cigarette trousers // & Other Stories - Shoes // Zara - Backpack // Georg Jensen - Watch // Cutler and Gross - Glasses // Thrifted - Newsboy cap