LAHORE - The great FE Chaudhry, Chacha to all journalists, especially to those who had the privilege – and more pleasure than privilege – of working with him at the old Pakistan Times passed away on Friday (his birthday). He was 104. Funeral of Chaudhry will be held tomorrow (Sunday) at 1pm at the Sacred Heart Cathedral, Lawrence Road.

Affectionately known as Chacha in the journalist community, FE Choudhry is credited to have introduced innovative features to photojournalism, such as cricket action photography, pictorial and artistic studies of birds and animals, photographs of natural and cultural scenes, along with a host of others which have become standard items of photojournalism today.

He was Pakistan’s first fulltime press photographer who worked freelance until he was snapped up by Mian Iftikharuddin soon after The Pakistan Times began publishing in 1947. Chacha, proud father of the 1965 war hero Cecil Choudhry, stayed with the newspaper almost until its closure, through good times and bad, working in his own inimitable style and taking pictures, many of which have come to form the pictorial history of Pakistan.

He was born on March 15, 1909 to a Christian Rajput family in Sahrnpur, India. His family moved to Jhelum, when Fazal Elahi was a young boy and he had his early education at Mission High School Dalwal, Jhelum and later graduated from FC College, Lahore.

Photography was his first love, which he picked up as a hobby. In those days photography was a cumbersome affair. In his later years, Chacha started working as a freelance photographer while serving as a science teacher at St Anthony’s High School, Lahore in 1934.

His first news photography was published in the Civil and Military Gazette, Lahore in 1935. He then went on to freelance for Illustrated Weekly of India, Statesman, Bombay and other papers. Chacha’s coverage of the Pakistan Movement, 1947 holocaust and its aftermath has become an ingredient of Pakistan’s history.

Chacha joined The Pakistan Times as a staff reporter in 1949 and remained associated with it until his retirement in 1973. He worked with all leading editors among them Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Mazhar Ali Khan, and KM Asaf. He was the founder President Lahore Press Club. For his long standing services, FE Choudhry was awarded Tamgh-i-Khidmat in 1970, Pride of Performance in 1987 and Tehrik-i-Pakistan Gold Medal in 1992.

In 2002 Khalid Hasan, on the photographer’s 93rd birthday wrote: “In a country where everything seems to change for the worst, Chacha remains one of the few remaining signs that perhaps not everything has gone down the tubes. Chacha, who has been decorated more than once by different governments for his outstanding contribution to photojournalism, does not need a title, but were one to be found for him, surely it could only be Baba-i-Press Photography.”

In another column that Khalid Hassan wrote when Chacha completed his 99 years of life one can see what kind of person he was.

“Chacha is all there, his memory is as sharp as it always was, considering that he has not forgotten the money many of us owe him, including me. But what we owe him is more than money. It is his presence that I can only liken to a great shade tree that has provided comfort and solace to more than one generation of journalists,” Hassan said.

“So much around him has changed but Chacha is the same as he always was, with one exception: mobility. He doesn’t get around all that much; but save that he won’t be in the next Lahore walkathon, he is in the pink of health. His blood pressure is like that of a baby and he pops no pills as far as I know. In the case some are given to him, he throws them out the window when nobody is looking,” Hasan added.

He further maintained: “Chacha’s great humour, his upbeat outlook on life and people, his prodigious memory and his abiding affection for journalists and journalism keep him going. When he turns 100 next year, I hope the Government of Pakistan will issue a stamp in his honour and pin the highest medal it has on Chacha’s chest.”

“In his Jail Road place, he used to keep his old cameras, clippings, photographs and his late wife’s huge collection of dolls and matchboxes. Among his pictures was one of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, fully padded, going in to bat for the Pakistan Times XI. Faiz’ great ambition when he was growing up, I add, was not to be a poet but a test cricketer,” he added.

“Chacha would always be first on the scene and, while others would be found scampering in, he would be leaving on his quickly, on which I remember taking some hazardous rides in the pillion seat. Chacha never wasted time when taking pictures. He wasn’t one of those who keep clicking away. He would choose his perch, his angle, aim his camera at the subject, take a couple of pictures and speed away on his quickly. I recall that one of Chacha’s pictures, printed on the front page of the Pakistan Times in the early days of the movement against Ayub Khan, became a kind of rallying cry and was often seen mounted on posters carried in student marches on the streets of Lahore,” Hassan maintained.