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Nad E Ali



Ali Abbas, also known as Nad-e Ali, is a multidisciplinary artist hailing from Lahore, Pakistan. He is also the founder and co-editor of “Tasveer”, Pakistan's first-ever independent photo zine publication. His artistic journey delves into nuanced themes such as alienation, belonging, and the intricate spaces that define our surroundings. Residing in the peripheral realms of society, Ali employs his lens to capture the essence of ritualistic engagements and cultural phenomenon anthropological pursuit aimed at preserving the experiences of the subaltern in their day-to-

day lives.


What is photography to you?

Photography, to me, is a powerful medium through which I can envision and articulate my perspective on the world and the experiences that shape it. It serves as a compelling means to express my emotions and reflections on various subjects. I find the inherent ability of photography fascinating, as it possesses the unique power to prompt contemplation, encouraging viewers to rethink and reconcile their thoughts. It offers an immersive experience, akin to revisiting moments lost or gone in time, creating a profound connection between the observer and the captured essence of a particular instance.

How did you get started in Photography?

My childhood, characterized by spending more time at home due to parental restrictions on outdoor play, cultivated a sense of curiosity and a yearning to explore the world beyond those confines. The limitations imposed on my childhood experiences ignited a desire to engage with the external world and understand its intricacies. Photography emerged as my chosen medium, offering a unique avenue to satisfy this curiosity. Returning home after venturing out, I found solace in processing and reviewing my camera reels, uncovering new facets of the world through the lens. This process not only allowed me to capture moments but also provided a platform for self-discovery and continuous exploration, shaping the unique perspective that defines my photography today.


What impact do you think your childhood has on your photography?

I think my exposure to paintings from my early childhood later had a great influence and huge impact when I started to seriously practice this discipline of visual storytelling. 

Please tell us about your process and vision.​

My creative process is deliberate and contemplative, characterized by a slow and thoughtful approach. When working on long-term projects, I prefer revisiting my edits and reviewing my work after some time to gain a fresh perspective. I document my experiences organically, allowing the narrative to unfold naturally.

Additionally, I find inspiration in archival materials and engage in extensive conversations with people, incorporating these elements into my practice.


My vision extends beyond traditional photography, as I am drawn to more interactive forms of storytelling in my final works displayed to the audience. Beyond just capturing images, I explore the ecological aspects of our surroundings, continually expanding my knowledge. My beliefs regarding the purpose of photography are fluid, and I explore both manual and digital formats, as well as image printmaking. I am currently delving into the world of music and instrument-making, viewing it as a form of meditation. Furthermore, my vision includes the creation and publication of small zines, tangible assets that endure beyond our lifetime, passing on the essence of my work to others.


What challenges do you face as an artist? How do you overcome low periods of motivation or creative ruts?


As an artist, I grapple with the challenges of staying motivated and navigating through  creative ruts. Inspired by Jacques Derrida's philosophy, I find solace in the idea that  sometimes doing nothing, embracing moments of laziness and solitude, can work wonders for healing and self-reflection. Derrida, known for his deconstructionist approach,  encourages a contemplative stance towards existence, challenging the norms and  questioning our pursuits. 

In line with Derrida's thoughts, I believe that the visibility and attention we seek from others  are inherent aspects of human nature. Many artists, including myself, create not only for  personal satisfaction but also to share our perspectives with a wider audience. This act  requires courage, a willingness to delve into our feelings, and an exploration of our  curiosities. However, I also emphasize the importance of resisting the pressure to mass produce art merely for the sake of production. In times of emotional or physical challenges,  such as illnesses, it's crucial to prioritize self-care and recognize that life extends beyond the  act of creating art for external validation. 

In this context, Derrida's words resonate: "To pretend, I actually do the thing: I have  therefore only pretended to pretend." It reminds us to be authentic in our artistic endeavors,  acknowledging the multifaceted nature of life and art's capacity to provide momentary  euphoria and a sense of purpose amid the complexities we face. 


What inspires you the most?

I find immense inspiration in the simple yet profound notion of existence itself. The  experience of being alive, with all its complexities, serves as a wellspring of creativity.  Observing the world through my own lens, discovering its intricacies, and interpreting it  uniquely fuels my artistic drive. Life's constant evolution and the ever-changing narratives  within it inspire me to capture moments that reflect the beauty and depth of our shared  human experience.

What gears do you generally use? What is your ideal piece of gear and why?

I lean towards more compact camera gear, particularly favoring fixed focal lengths like  35mm. Currently, I'm shooting with Fujifilm. The compactness allows for greater mobility  and spontaneity in my work, allowing a more intimate connection with the images I am  trying to convey. The fixed focal length encourages a deliberate approach to composition,  enabling me to craft images with a distinct limitation. It's about finding the perfect balance  between technical precision and the expression I am envision in my mind before something  appears in the frame.

Tell us about a photo you’re proud of.

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The photo I take pride in is the "Portrait of Late Sardaar Badshah," captured in 2014 during  the annual Sab e Ashur majlis at Mochi Gate during Muharram every year, Lahore, Pakistan.  This image encapsulates the spirit of Zuljinah, the revered horse of Imam Hussain, symbolizing loyalty and faith in the story of Karbala. Sardaar Badshah, a distinctive figure in  the community, embodied kindness and grace, leaving an indelible mark on the residents of  Mochi Gate Old City in Lahore. The photograph resonates communal spirit, atmosphere with  the symbolism of Zuljinah, representing the enduring spirit of the faithful loyalty and love for  its master within the context of the Battle of Karbala and the Muharram rituals observed in  the Shia community. 

How would you define photographic success?

Photographic success, for me, unfolds in a deliberate and contemplative manner. It's an  unhurried journey, marked by intuition and the occasional pause where I abstain from taking  photographs entirely. Participating in the act of pure experience, listening to the narratives  that people, places, or ideas convey through a photograph, embodies success in my artistic  practice. I believe success is not merely in the captured image but in the shared moments  and the emotions they evoke.

Any new projects that you are working on currently? What does the future in photography  look like for you? 

Currently, my creative energy is invested in three distinct but interconnected long-term book  projects, notably titled “Salt and Light” and “The Other Horses”. Each project carries its own  narrative, evolving organically with time. Concurrently, my passion for publishing and  bookmaking is embodied in "Tasveer," a recent initiative that converges text and image to  articulate cultural production in a nuanced way. Looking forward, my aspiration lies in  completing these publications and seeing them find their place in people's libraries,  contributing to the broader discourse and alternative ways of visual storytelling. The future  in photography, for me, is intricately woven with these projects, each book becoming a  testament to the enduring connection between me and my audience. 

Image copyrights © Nad E Ali

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