Familiar with Humans of Karachi? It is all the buzz on Facebook. Meet the brains behind the project: Khaula Jamil!
Khaula Jamil is an artist, a photo journalist and film maker. She spends her time travelling and as a freelance photographer. We decided to get in touch with her and share her inspiring career journey with you.
How did you end up with a career in Photography?
I graduated from Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture with a B.A in Communication Design. I did my minor in film making (my photography teacher was disappointed I didn’t choose photography). It was while I was working with Jamshed Mahmood (JAMI) as an Art Director when I gradually started to shift to photography. I guess, one can say, I went backwards from film making to photography when usually it’s the other way around.
So are you still a filmmaker?
I love film making and I shoot videos and documentaries from time to time but my main line of work is still Photography.
Did you face any hurdles making a career switch?
Everybody faces hurdles, I did too but it wasn’t too difficult a transition. I find film making to be a more complex medium compared to photography.
When did you decide to pursue a Masters Degree in Photography?
I wanted to go for my Masters even before I did my Bachelors. I just knew it. The entire course of my Bachelors went by with the focus that I wanted to eventually go abroad for a Masters Degree. I was a huge nerd in college because I knew I needed a high GPA for a scholarship. During the two-year gap after I graduated from Indus Valley, I worked with Jami for a year, applied for the Fulbright Scholarship, and launched a coffee table book while waiting to get admitted for Masters. In 2009, I left for New York on Fulbright to pursue an MFA in Photography.
When did you start working for CAP?
Within two weeks after returning from my Masters Degree in 2012, I started working as the Head of Photo Video and Animation at CAP.
How did you decide to switch from working for CAP to embarking on a full time freelance photography career?
I was freelancing even while working at CAP. But being in a managerial position, there wasn’t much fieldwork and I didn’t get to photograph as much as I would have liked. I had to keep that alive by working on freelance projects. Towards the end of the year, my freelance work was going really well and there were opportunities to travel that I couldn’t take on because I worked a 9 to 5 job. At the end of 2012, I resigned from CAP but still maintain a great relationship with them.
What gave you the inspiration to start HOK?
While I was working at CAP, my friend from New York sent me the link for ‘Humans of New York’. “You are perfect for this!” she said. But, there was no way I could do this with a 9 to 5 job. So I emailed my boss, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, and she absolutely loved the idea.
Being a photographer of HOK, what are some of the various places in Karachi that you have visited?
You should ask what places I haven’t visited; they mostly include the ones on the outskirts of Karachi.
While on a street shoot for HOK, what is your way to decide which person to approach?
It is basically observing your surroundings and deciding what strikes your interest. If a person is sitting idle, maybe chilling on a banana cart, you think, “Hey, this person is in a mood to chat, lets check out what his story is.” If someone is dressed very differently, then that becomes a must shoot, whether he is busy with work or running down the street.
Given the conditions of the city, this particular career takes you to places which may be quite unsafe. Did you ever feel threatened being a female in this field?
Thank God, nothing bad has ever happened to us. But I don’t go out with a mindset that something might happen either- sure, I am anxious at times but I do not keep thinking about it. If you are paranoid all the time that the person in front of you has ill intentions, you will never get anything done. Benefit of the doubt: That is what I give people when go out on a shoot. A person is not a bad person for me until he has done something wrong. Perhaps it is naïve of me to go out with this mindset but I refuse to dwell on paranoia.
Was family support an issue pursing this career?
My family is very supportive, MashAllah!
What is the future of HOK?
There are only about 1500 pictures taken and there are 180 million people in Karachi. I don’t think this project is ever going to get old. The eventual idea is to continue this until I launch a book for Humans of Karachi.
Besides HOK what other ventures are you pursuing currently?
I have a small business called K for Karachi. I would really like to take it forward this year.
Can you tell us more about K for Karachi and the inspiration behind it?
New York. I saw a designer by the name of Koco at a pop up holiday market with a stall selling amazing silver jewelry featuring pictures of New York and I loved it. I kept thinking if I could find some with Karachi pictures in them. I searched online but I didn’t find anything. Even a year after I came back- I couldn’t find any.
Finally, I thought “Why don’t I make one myself?” It turned out great and I decided to start my own line.
You meet quite a lot of women on a daily basis. How can more of these women become entrepreneurs and pursue their dreams?
I don’t think there is one advice that you can give out to everyone. Everyone has their own story and their own set of challenges. For example my advice to a woman would be different if family support is an issue compared to a woman who is lazy to work. But a universal tip I could give is: Don’t wait, there is no perfect moment for anything.- if you have an idea, just do it.
What is your advice to Pakistani women who are wasting their talent and skills by not doing something productive?
“Productive” is a relative term. If you mean why they are not working or have a career, I feel that only those women end up working who really want to. Regardless, if the family is against it or opportunities are rare I have seen that they eventually find a way. A lot of women are raised with the mindset to not work and they are okay with it; to each his own. It becomes very difficult to change that. I don’t think you can give out any advice to somebody who does not want to work.
What is your advice to Pakistani women to balance one’s personal and professional life?
It is all up to you how to prioritize your life. You have to call the shots yourself and you have to be really sure about it. At some point you have to decide how much of what you really want, what you are able to juggle. For example what type of photography do you want to pursue, do you want to set up a company or a studio? You have to be really clear about your path. I decided that I don’t want to do wedding photography and although I still get requests, I refrain because I want to pursue and be known for Photojournalism. You make choices and that’s how you keep a balance.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Khaula Jamil! HerCareer wishes you all the best for the future!
Inspired yet? Drop us a message at HerCareer.pk to start your very own entrepreneur journey!