Islamabad-I once read somewhere that the word photography comes from the Greek language and it means to draw with light.That is what Waliya does: she draws with light, whether it is daylight or artificial light. 

 Waliya, is one of the most sought-after photographers in the twin cities and a social media celebrity, with 217,000 followers on Instagram and 180,000 followers on Facebook. Many fan pages dedicated to her on various social media platforms.

She is one of the few lucky ones whose parents supported the idea of pursuing a career in photography instead of forcing her to get a bachelor’s degree. Consequently, today she earns much more than her counterparts, who studied at fancy universities but are still struggling to get jobs.

 At 19, Waliya was invited to GIK for a photography workshop where she trained students older than her.

Later she was invited to LUMS, NUST, and various other colleges and universities in the country, to talk about entrepreneurship, photography and to judge various photography competitions. It is a big achievement for a girl who has successfully broken all the shackles of traditionalism. She tells me that, “After being invited to such big institutions as a guest and as a trainer, I realised the importance of doing what you’re the best at, because if I had not pursued photography, these universities might have never even let me step inside because I was always an average student.”

Waliya’s work seems to be an illustration of her conscious and unconscious self. She says, “I try to capture feelings and joy of the moment, one frame at a time, I love nature, people and life itself so I try to capture the honest placidity of our existence. The ability to catch and immortalize a moment which is passing is what drives my passion for photography.”

 Her father introduced her to photography from an early age. “My dad loved taking photographs, and I would arrange them in albums.” She pointed towards a big cupboard beside the sofa that she was sitting on in her drawing room and showed me piles of albums that she and her father had made together. “Our home has always been full of photographs, albums, and paintings. Wherever we went, our camera went with us. Every happy moment was caught on camera,” she said. Receiving her very own camera for the first time on her 13th birthday opened up a door into the world of photography. After her father passed away, her paternal relatives began a feud over property and inheritance.

It was a time when she and her mother faced a severe financial crisis. “Despite all the problems we were going through, my mom still bought me a camera and gave her car to me so I could travel to and from shoots safely,” she said. Waliya credits all her success to her mother, who not only encouraged her but stood behind her like a wall to protect her from all those that looked down upon her budding career as a photographer.

 In early 2012, a new range of affordable DSLR cameras came into the market and led to a proliferation of amateurs who weren’t even aware of the basics of photography. I was curious to know how she managed to stand out in this deadly wave and she confidently tells me that by the time this wave approached the city, she had already carved out her niche in the market.

The fact that she maintained her originality, kept the consistency and continuously came out with unique ideas is what drew people to her work.

But what attracted the most significant chunk of people, including myself, was that Waliya’s photography was very personal: she shared her entire life with her followers, the rawness, and vulnerability evident in her photos made her stand out. Once people knew who she was, they wanted to know more about her, her history and her lifestyle.

I asked whether she feels a responsibility towards her followers, she blushes and tells me that she’s very thankful for getting this level of fame and following, “I take my work very seriously, and I try to be responsible on social media. The key is consistency, and that’s what I try to achieve by uploading good quality work regularly.”

 Currently, she is affiliated a travel group called Baydaar travels as a photographer and brand ambassador; the group has been taking scores of young people up north to show them the beauty of Pakistan and everything that it has to offer.

We discuss how difficult it was back in 2012 when the only famous female photographer in the city was Rammal Mehmud, who not only inspired Waliya but was one of my early inspirations as well.

 Rammal was the first photographer to introduce conceptual photography in the city and encouraged countless girls to pick up their camera and learn the art of photography.

Back in the day, it used to be very difficult to convince one’s parents to accept photography as a profession, but today people like Waliya and Rammal have managed to change the mindset of countless parents, who have seen that people from good backgrounds are making a name for themselves in this field.