Munna Mushtaq is one of the leading and best photographers of Pakistan entertainment industry. Started photography 15 years ago, he established himself as one of the most appreciated photographers of Pakistan with his unique and interesting approach towards photography. Without further ado, here is the interview with him. Happy reading!
NM:What or who got you started in photography?
MM: I started photography because I felt that there is a big room in doing fashion photography and when I got started with it, there was no one who was purely doing fashion photography. I used to get inspired from photo shoots of magazines like Vogue, Cosmo, GQ and W Magazine. It made me realise that there is big gap of this type of photography in our country as no one is doing it. So almost 15 years back, I decided to quit my modelling career and instead focused on establishing my career as a fashion photographer.
NM: Did u go to school to study photography?
MM: In the beginning, I did 2-3 short courses for example I went to NCA for 14 days to do a basic photography course. After 5/6 months, I went to Mauritius to do a three-month long course followed by a same duration course in Seychelles. During this time, I realised that these courses helped me little but what helped me more was my hardwork, dedication and sacrifice of my personal life which helped me establish myself prominently in my field. In Pakistan, it requires a lot of hardwork and innovating stuff to keep yourself alive in the field. I learnt that understanding the fashion industry is more important than studying it. You just have to make yourself very tough and patient to succeed.
NM: How long have you been a photographer?
MM: I have been into photography business since last one and a half decade. I am not only a photographer but also an art director, stylist and lighting expert which makes me a one-man-show. Even abroad, you would just see the photographer clicking the pictures and lighting man doing the lighting but I am expert in all four fields which I learnt during the course of 15 years in this industry.
NM: What type of photography do you do the most? And what do you enjoy most and why?
MM: These days I am loving textile photography. The reason behind this is that you have to shoot 20-25 dresses a day and each one of them is a probable to make it to commercial aspect such as bill boards or cover pages and catalogue so it is a huge responsibility and demands hundred percent efforts. This kind of pressure and challenge is very thrilling when the textile owners, models, makeup artists, crew and production staff pressurises you to meet the deadline with perfection so I started loving it.
Secondly, I also love wedding photography. I always give one hour to brides for real bride view to make them confident and happy as I have to make their picture perfect because I have to show them pretty, confident and elegant. It is a big challenge as we have to take at least a thousand pictures in one hour and we have to give them around 25-40 pictures out of them on their real wedding day.
NM: What is the most challenging part about being a photographer for you?
MM: This is a very nice question as no one has asked me this before. When I got started with my career in Karachi, I even had to walk from Park Towers to Tariq Road as I did not have any support of family, friends or from anyone else. It was like jumping from a ship in deep sea and swimming back to the shore without even knowing how long you have to swim in order to survive. For me, this struggle to do something big in my career without any support was very challenging. I had made up my mind to see myself getting successful thus I never got a habit of making myself stand in the queue of failure. I have faced a lot of difficulties and still face them. Maintaining your own brand is not easy and I have been doing it since last five years while a lot of people are just trying to pull you down. When you have more enemies than friends, then it gets very tough and challenging to maintain the face of your brand.
NM: Describe your photographic style? How did you develop your style?
MM: My photography style is ‘larger than life’. Most people would not understand this term so I will try explaining it. If you see Hollywood movies like Titanic, Gladiator or Troy, you would notice that they rely mostly on natural resources and they try to create huge setups. In the background, they show ‘larger than life’ which means they show a lot of things in the background. I converted the cinematic photography into still photography which is simply next to impossible but as I said in the beginning that innovating stuff is very necessary and I am a very psycho kind of a person thus I made it possible which no one else in Pakistan has ever done.
NM: What is your best photography tip?
MM: My tip is that whether you are an ameteur or professional photographer, you first need to observe and understand the mood and aesthatics of your subject before starting to click the pictures. Understand the subject’s mood and environment will help you take the right pictures.
NM: Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?
MM: I have always been inspired by two foreign photographers and always observe their work. One of them is London based photographer, Maria Testino. I simply love her work and her fashion exhibitions are the most expensive in the world. The other one is Annie Leibovitz who is an old lady and she is the one mostly doing the cover shoots for Vanity. Her work is more similar like mine. She take big challenging shoots which are out of comprehension of normal people. In Pakistan, I don’t see any progress in photography as a career so far and you can’t really do anything until and unless you are well-connected.
NM: What technology/software/camera gear do you use to keep focused on what you do best, as you photograph?
MM: Well technology helps you a lot but it can’t help you with creativity as creativity lies in your mind. Technology helps you make your project quicker and the available softwares give you finesse but before clicking the picture, it is your mind which has to imagine the idea of what you are going to shoot. I think technology just contributes 30% while 70% of the perfection comes from your mind and creativity.
NM: Which camera do you use?
MM: Well I am using 5D Mark III, 5D Mark II and I have been using Hasselblad. At this stage of my career, my mind has become like a nuclear missile so I don’t like depending on machine guns, i.e. cameras. I now depend on my health, presence of mind and creativity. A good health is very important as I have to be crazy and active while working and with presence of mind, I can do better with my creativity.
NM: What motivates you to continue taking pictures economically, politically, intellectually or emotionally?
MM: As a commercial artist, while standing on the floor, two things run in my mind. The first is economically that I have to see how financially grand I can make the project. Secondly, until and unless you don’t get emotionally attached to your subject, the result of photography doesn’t come out good. So these two things simultaneously run in my mind as the client is paying and you feel happy and satisfied that you are achieving your goal and the result.
NM: Your experience with Vogue Amour?
MM: I felt really good with the way I got treated and the intelligent questions I have been asked, it always feels amazing to discuss your success and achievements. It makes your inner self feel happy. ‘Brain with beauty’ is the double compliment I would give you for the smart questions you asked and managed the whole interview. And I feel that we will further work more together in the future.