Syed Hassan Pasha hails from Islamabad, Pakistan. He specialises in video game animation and works as a creative consultant for a non-profit organisation. Hassan began taking photographs as a hobby and is now very keen on making a profession out of it.
You hate labels, I hate labels, we all hate labels. But no, really, how would you label yourself? I only ask because you’re known to me as a photographer, graphic designer, content creator, techno geek, you name it. How do you define yourself?
You are very right in saying we all hate labels. However, if you insist on knowing, then I would call myself someone with wanderlust.
What fascinated me most about your oeuvre is the miniature photography, or small-scale toy installations that you’ve worked on. Where did the inspiration for that come from?
What really drove me to work with miniatures is the fact that you get to see a lot of people doing weddings, nature, architecture etc. I wanted to bring something different to the table. Every now and then, I would come across someone from the other side of the world sharing photos of their toys and I thought to myself, why don’t I try my hand at this? I was pretty certain not many people do miniature photography in Pakistan, let alone in Islamabad.
I think I’ve mentioned to you the work of Slinkachu, a London-based artist who’s taken this artform to the next level by making his toys intersect with the real world. Is that something you want to do with your own work, let it loose, as it were?
Slinkachu has done amazing work, he breathes life into the images he creates and I really believe that this is how it should be done, otherwise the images would be very flat. I am also inspired by the works of Felix Hernandez Rodriguez. He is a Mexican photographer who is famous for the Audi shoot with miniature models. Be it Slinkachu or Rodriguez, I definitely want to follow in their footsteps and take my work to a higher level and make a name for myself.
Where do you get most of your models from?
I don’t have a specific shop that I go to; I collect them from flea markets to online stores to major brand toy stores. There are a few vendors who know of my interest, and are kind enough to call me if something of my interest comes along. That makes it easy. These days I really want to get my hands on Prieser HO Scale models. These are the kind Slinkachu uses.
What’s your work routine like? How much time do you devote to your craft and how do you learn to become better?
Well I have a day job, I work as a creative consultant for an international non-profit organization. And, like any other organization, I have to put in my hours per week, this only gives me the weekends to work with my camera. It’s either dedicated weekends or occasional late evening photography where I can make do with artificial light, although my first and foremost preference has always been natural light. I don’t have a set schedule although as much as I would like to have one, I am very random at creating art. How do I learn to become better? Practice for one, my photography teacher once said to me, “Never stop clicking.” That has helped me understand the limits of my equipment and myself.
Is there exciting work happening in your field here in Islamabad, or in Pakistan? Does it feel like your work exists in a bubble?
Since Ikram and I have teamed up, I don’t feel I’m in a bubble. However, I have not seen anyone from Islamabad or Pakistan for that matter share their miniature photography yet. So, yes, Ikram and I might be isolated till someone else comes along.
Have you ever put yourself in mortal danger to take a picture?
I’ve stepped in the middle of the road to take a photograph, but, then again, it was at 4:00 am on a cold December morning so, rest assured, there was no danger, mortal or otherwise. But to answer your question, I always put safety first even though many times I have been tempted to put aside all safety protocols for that ‘one’ shot.
What, to you, is the essence of good art?
As German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said, “The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.” Gratitude to me is realizing that I just woke up in an amazing garden and have a chance to take a look around. Take a look around and take notes. So, I definitely agree with Nietzsche on this one.
If you could be a natural formation (i.e. a waterfall, a landslide etc), what would you be?
I’d be a calcite. They are always sparkling in the darkest of places.
Interviewed by Senior Art Editor Haseeb Chishti.