self delusions in 35mm

Hassan Tahir Latif


Photography has always fascinated me, from outdated daguerreotypes to modern day smartphone photos. Perhaps it is the nature of what a photograph contains: a moment of reality, a stolen capsule of time, frozen for posterity. Susan Sontag says that ‘the most grandiose result of the photographic enterprise is to give us the sense that we can hold the whole world in our heads — as an anthology of images.’ It is this visceral optical experience created by photographs that always keeps me in thrall and the reason I have always whipped out a phone or a Polaroid camera, hoping to create a visual history of myself and those around me. This year in particular, photography played an important role for me. I unboxed old photographs of my great-grandparents to reconnect with the past, went through my own collection of (some admittedly questionable) photographs and documented moments during lockdown that I hoped would provide some context later to the strangeness of this year. My musings this time are short vignettes inspired by viewing photographs of professionals, of friends (Nazuk Iftikhar Rao, JuanKR and Madeeha Maqbool) and most recently, by delving into the work of Boris I. Bittker, whose unseen photographs from his travels around the world will be up on the website later.


Lahore, May 2020

(I)

I take photographs because I cannot write a thousand words; or, I guess I don’t want to write a thousand words. Even a single word would betray me. In a photo I can tuck you away in a corner, surround you by meaningless pixels, so that you remain visible only to me—hiding in plain sight. Where the world sees the sun set over rooftops, I only see the brilliance of your face.


(II)

I’ve spent many an evening with friends pretending to be an auteur, trying to capture our millennial ennui, so that we may look back to when we were young and reckless and had ambitions and hopes and dreams and people we hated and people we longed to be. Every Sunday I try to bottle the feeling of a record player crooning in the background, the chink of glasses, the swish of a cotton saree, constructing the truths we wish to be remembered by.


Haiya & Mina at what we call the Sunday Club

(III)

How do you stop time that is already at a standstill? Is it something that requires an exploration of the quantum realm or stepping back to view the cosmos at once? Is it simply to press your fingers gently on a screen and let the magic of light capture what is already frozen?


(IV)

Do you know that I look at you always? In the quiet hours of night, the blinding light of day? In the twilit evenings and the melancholy of dawn and dusk? You bookmark my thoughts and punctuate my dreams. In a 4x3, you’re with me everywhere I go.


(V)

Cataloguing Your Self-Delusions

a) millennial ennui:

VSCO—change the brightness, increase the contrast, cover your eyes and snap


b) unbridled joy:

suspicious. go for an Insta filter—they won’t believe you otherwise


c) malaise:

Instax Mini—set to ‘home’ setting, put on flash and remove the smile


d) nostalgia now:

35mm; black and white; curate your own history; look back and gawk in admiring belief


e) feeling yourself:

selfie; mirror; don’t pout; delete immediately, you’re no Dürer


Self Portrait, October 2019