Make It Look Real

Make It Look Real

by Danial Shah


Visions of becoming and belonging: an (autobiographical) exploration of photo studios in Balochistan, Pakistan.

Focusing on the world of photo studios in contemporary Balochistan (Pakistan), the present project enters the terrain of the vanishing. With the arrival of digital technology photo studios are disappearing and along with them also their hand painted backdrops, props, costumes and cameras, the long sessions, the chatting and the manuality that make up the social life of these environments. What is not disappearing, however, is the desire to transform life by means of photographs where individuals are allowed to enter a fantasy world. Photographic studios in Balochistan are spaces where dreams are born and lives are shaped. In a studio you can become anything, a freedom fighter, a friend of the prime minister, the boyfriend of a movie star . Photographs are not mere representations, they are tools for performing life, for becoming. The disappearance of the studios also carries a deeper social meaning. Photographic aesthetics are in fact key terrain around which local communities gather. They bring individual fantasies in touch with a sense of belonging to the local community. So what will happen once they disappear? The project builds on my practice as a photographer and documentary filmmaker as well on my own biography as a displaced artist from Quetta, Balochistan, lending my own story and my own self to become the object of the work of local photographers. My exploration of the world of vanishing photographic studios will allow me to further explore the meaning of photographs in a South Asian context. Doing this I will also address matters of race, ethnicity and gender as they meet and merge in the context of the studios.


Finished Film: Atelier Graphoui (BE) (2023).

Co-producers: Video Power (NL) and Atelier Graphoui (BE).
Camera and Sound: Danial Shah
Editing: Sébastien Demeffe
Sound Mix and Design: Thomas Ferrando
A film developed in the framework of SIC.

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