Photography for Zeeshan Khan is a medium for the appreciation of all things art. Tending to treat photography as a way to create visual poetry he primarily shoots in black and white. To him black and white photography is a love letter to photography. Addicted to chasing light, shadows, architecture marvels, human expression, and whatever else that fancies his visual appetite.
Tell us a bit about yourself, where were you born, where do you live now, how did you become interested in photography?
I am a child of the eighties born in Karachi, Pakistan into a middle class family. I got exposed to photography at a fairly young age (teenage years I think) when I stumbled across my late grandfather's cameras. None of them actually worked and at the time I did not have the means to get them fixed. However, I pretended to be a photojournalist traveling through the Grand Silk Road photographing natives along the way. It is safe to say that the 'pretend play' experience got embedded in my memory. Since then I've been obsessed with making pictures. In addition to photography I was exposed to great literature, poetry, music, and cinema. My father had a wonderful library which allowed me to consume wonderful books. My teenage years were spent reading and listening to Pink Floyd.
Around the age of 18, I moved to the USA with New York City as my new home base. I travelled between Chicago and Toronto to get my art education in graphic design, multimedia, and history. Currently I live and work in Boston as a healthcare technology executive. I am married with two kids.
I use photography to express my art and slowly but surely working towards going professional.
Tell us more about your images that you submitted. Could you elaborate more on your black and white stories? What was the concept behind them?
Every image to me is a piece of art. I spend my time studying a scene to make sure there is enough of what I need to create my visual poem. I create my scene around a single subject whether it is a person, object, architecture, and let everything else fall in place. I will look for the right amount of contrast by balancing geometry, light, and shadows. From an ethical standpoint I do my best not to capture anyone or anything in a compromised or embarrassing position. My photography is described as "Visual poetry through photography, streets through the lens of an architecture and poetry lover".
I will admit that I have not been great in creating a series of images to represent a single story. Instead I create a single image to tell an entire story. However, lately, I've been dedicating myself to creating a series of photographs to tell a story. I will share most of that work on my personal website and blog.
Do you have a favourite quote/lyric/saying that especially resonates with you?
"Without hope we are lost" - Mahmoud Darwish
Where do you find your inspiration?
I find inspiration in my current surroundings, perhaps something I've read that has struck a nerve, a lyric, piece of music, cinematic experience, and more.
Do you have a favourite place to shoot in?
New York City is always my number one spot. But I hope to travel to Iran, Japan, Pakistan, and Turkey to create a series of stories. Besides actual cities I absolutely love photographing around bridges. There is so much interaction happening around a bridge that is prime for photography.
What is it that you enjoy about street photography? What happens when you walk the streets with your camera? Explain your technique? Have you ever had a negative encounter?
Street photography gives me a sense of freedom. It is me in the universe walking the streets with my camera. I have a fluid technique where I like to create a scene from anything that I have experienced. For e.g. I'll walk under the Manhattan bridge and create a dramatic scene using its shape. Sometimes I'll capture the right light with the backdrop of lower Manhattan or capture a cyclist in silhouette against a deep shadow. I walk the streets almost everyday to capture moments.
Yes, I have come across a few negative encounters but never has it ever gotten physical. If someone has found it offensive then I will try to engage them and tell them about my photography. If they still find it offensive then I'll simply delete the image.
In general, what do you want to express through your photography? And what are some of the elements you always try to include in your photographs?
I use photography as a way to convey my artistic expression. I am a trained graphic designer as well as a typography nerd. I pay special attention to composition. Try to make sure lines are straight. Geometry has to give this sense of responsibility in a particular image. But above all, a scene has to be contrasty with good representation of light and shadow. I think that is why I cannot see myself as a run and gun street photographer.
Do you have any favourite artists/photographers? Who do you think has mostly influenced your style?
Are there any books that you have read that have inspired your creativity and that you would like to recommend to us?
Lately I've been enjoying Ralph Gibson's book Sacred Israel. I'm beginning to understand his photographs but it took me years of personal photography to get here. He is simply fantastic.
Other than photo books I read the following books every now and then to reignite my creativity. I'll mention five. Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, Tariq Ali's Shadows of a Pomegranate Tree, Amin Maalouf's Samarkand, Michael Chabon's Adventure's of Kavalier and Clay, and Orhan Pamuk's My Name is Red.
There are many more but these five are by my bedside table at all times. There is enough culture between these books to ignite anyone's creative process.
Does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? What camera do you use? Describe what you love about your camera/s and what (if you do) dislike about it. Do you have a preferred lens/focal length?
Leica M cameras have inspired my photography in a meaningful way. The M system has allowed me to photograph what I actually see. It is a wonderful system that is simple to use and actually inspires you to photograph. It is obviously different for everyone but I can safely say that it has improved my photography greatly. It becomes an extension of your eye and I carry it everywhere, and I mean everywhere. The only complaint I have about the M system is that I wish the lenses were weather sealed, since I like to shoot in bad weather like rain and snow. Sure, it works great as is but I have to be careful.
No, I do not have a preferred focal length. I use a variety of Leica lenses to create my photographs.
When you go out photographing, do you have a concept in mind of what you want to shoot, or do you let the images just "come to you", or is it both?
It is a bit of both. At times I will go out with a purpose for e.g. capturing skaters at a local skateboard park. And other times I'll just take a walk and let the images come to me. However, I will say that I do not do any kind of dedicated planning. It is very much a free flowing process.
Have you ever been involved in the artistic world before photography?
Yes, I have. I started my career as a graphic designer. I curated a South Asian art magazine with other like minded artists. Other than that it has been mostly career focused where I've designed websites, magazines, and now software products.
What are some of your goals as an artist? Where do you see yourself or hope to see yourself in five years?
I want to put all my efforts into photography. And for the past year I've been very much focused. I am beginning to collect a body of work that I hope to publish into books, photo zines, fine art prints, curate both online and in person exhibitions, and perhaps one day get to photograph streets and architecture around Iran.
Are there any special projects you are currently working on that you would like to let everyone know about?
I am working on a few series. I can mention two here for now. A series based around the Lynch Family Skate Park in Boston/Cambridge, and a series with the concept of minimalism in architecture. Both these series will eventually be shared in full on all my social media channels, personal website, Flickr, and instagram. And one of the series will turn into a photo zine.
“When I am not out photographing, I (like to)…
...Play guitar, hang out with my family, consume literature, and catch up on foreign TV shows."