When you are committed to pursuing your passion which revolves around exploring the beauty of your region, you know great stories are destined for you. Ilyaas, Pakistan’s celebrated travel photographer has been giving viewers a glimpse of Pakistan, specifically Balochistan like never before. Be it the cultural settings, the people and expressions of complete beauty and heart, or the spellbinding locations that Illyaas is giving us a peek into with, there is no denying how much a single lens can cover and how. Speaking to Social Diary, the talented photographer shared how he got into this epic journey, what has he learned along the way and what more he is planning to uncover.
defaultSD: What led you to become a travel photographer?
Ilyaas: There is always a driving force. Something strong that sets within you. It leads you to discover the unexplored terrains. For me, it has to be the utmost beauty of my land that surely drives me to see what I don’t know of. Also the vast and rich history of Balochistan has always intrigued me and I knew I had to see it with my own eyes.
SD: But can we consider Balochistan as a safe tourist destination?
Ilyaas: So here is where I burst the bubble. Don’t believe everything you hear in the news. Balochistan is a great and safe place for anyone who wishes to go there. I have myself traveled five times through Hingol and at very different time frames, be it 1AM, 3AM or even 5 in the morning. In fact I know of a lady who travelled through with her daughter as she went from Karachi to Iranian Border without any fear. The negative impression of a rare incident lingers on but it is important to understand how this region is getting the bad limelight, when it has so much to offer in a very secure and comfortable way.
SD: Was it always the plan?
IIyaas: I wouldn’t say it was always how I wanted it to be. But at some point, I realized it was my true calling and I would consider myself as a bird with wings led by the power of nature, wherever it leads, I follow. I know it sounds too cliche, but that is really how it began and I have never looked back.
SD: Any major setbacks you faced while pursuing this field?
IIyaas: While I would say that no journey is easy. Every person has to face their own set of obstacles along the way. But what I’ve learned through my experience is that when you are alone out in nature, there is truly nothing that is going to be holding you back or pulling you down. Your willingness to continue to move forth and make it your epic journey is what sidelines all the obstacles you might face.
SD: What kind of training did you take to prepare yourself for this?
Ilyaas: It wasn’t like I had taken on some special training but it was my persistence which kept me engaged. I would say I did practice my skills. This meant I would spend hours and days to keep myself going. It is easy to get discouraged along the way. But I tried to keep myself energized and committed.I am a man with the power of learning.
SD: How did you kickstart your epic new way of life?
Ilyaas: Travelling was always embedded in me. I knew it was what I wanted. After my university days, I knew I had to set this in motion. But just like many cases, I found it hard to make my family understand and come to terms with what I wanted in life. Yet it was this deprivation which led to a surge in my courage and from then on, I only know to keep on moving forward.
SD: What remains the most beautiful place in Pakistan you covered with your camera?
Ilyaas: Skardu Valley is the most wonderful piece of land I have covered in these years.
SD: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work?
Ilyaas: When I look at how far I’ve come, the rewards are countless to my expeditions. I have also been rewarded plenty of times for my art that has been exhibited in many magazines. I also have won accolades in different competitions. But the fact of the matter is, these things don’t matter and they don’t excite me as such either because my travelling and unravelling Pakistan is what truly moves my heart. However it does feel great to be recognized as the first travel photographer in my region.
SD:What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
Ilyaas: It isn’t really possible to name just one. There are plenty to look into. But that is what makes life so beautiful and warm. You have to look at these challenges as major milestones . They are your turning points in life. Surely they will leave some great lessons for you too.
SD: How do you share stories through your pictures?
Ilyaas: I think there is always something strong that you need to understand with your stories. It’s a feeling that stays with you. It is more so a complete wrap of expressions which are molding your art into a major storybook. I know how much depth you can find in a single picture of mine. That is how they work and allow you to connect on so many levels!
SD: Do you plan to take your passion globally too and cover exotic places?
Ilyaas: Yes, definitely. I wouldn’t mind becoming a global citizen of the world. But for me right now, my land is where I stand. And there is so much more to explore and talk about yet. The unexplored terrains are plenty and I have only just started.
SD: Your words to those who also wish to make travelling their passion and way of life?
Ilyaas: The one thing I have realized is travelling isn’t actually your conventional work field or a department in the industry you can pursue as a career choice. There is so much more to it. I always consider it as the only passion which has no destination. Because if it did, it will be ending at some point. And that is why it is not your average choice to pursue. In fact you need to aim for this passion only when you wish to explore and discover persistently. While I am not discouraging anyone to not go for it, but it’s definitely a choice which needs a passionate drive which is limitless.