Faizan Ahmad photos show life on the Lahore Metrobus

(CNN) – Photographer Faizan Ahmad did not even take a camera before moving to Lahore, one of Pakistan’s largest cities, in 2013.

However, the 25-year-old student made it his mission to look for as many art and photography books as possible between attending classes at the city’s University of Education and working in a call center.

Coincidentally, the Lahore Metrobus, Pakistan’s first Rapid Transit bus system, was launched last year, allowing Ahmad to travel to the city easily and cheaply.

After spending many hours moving the buses, Ahmad started talking to his colleagues about their lives.

He soon became so excited about their stories that he decided on them, inspired by Brandon Stanton’s 2010 book The People of New York.

Having saved enough money to buy his first camera, Ahmad photographed the mobsters he encountered, as well as noting the stories they shared with him.

His many interactions with people on the bus are featured in his 160-page “Lahore By Metro” photo, which was released earlier this year.

“I listened to people’s stories and started taking pictures,” Ahmad told CNN Travel.

“Most of them were not from Lahore, and like me they came here for training and different things.

“One day I meet someone from Islamabad, the next I meet someone from the other side of the country. Some days I met tourists.”

Work of passion

Fizan Ahmad spent five years photographing the mobsters he encountered on the Lahore Metrobus.

Faizan Ahmad |

Ahmad’s travels usually began at 6 a.m. when he arrived at the local metro station at Ittefaq Hospital and went to Lahore University of Education in Lower Mall.

In the book, he recounts his morning routine in great detail, describing the various types of people he would meet, such as workers, school children “with food boxes hanging from their shoulders” and lawyers on their way to Lahore High Court.

Living in his brother’s office when he first arrived in the city, Ahmad traveled by bus after school to avoid being around when the facilities were full.

This meant that he was on the Metrobus, which covers a distance of 27 kilometers and serves 27 metro stations, at different times of the day, and managed to get the true sense of the huge number of passengers “of all ages and walks of life” that the use daily.

The project began as a series of social media posts, but after downloading hundreds of images and stories, Ahmad realized he had enough material to create his own photo book and began composing “Lahore By Metro”

While some passengers refused to be photographed, and some were uncomfortable opening up to a stranger, Ahmad says the vast majority were happy to talk to him.

“I am often surprised at how willing and honest people were when they told their stories,” he says.

“The conversation flows quite easily. Sometimes the stories were so long and interesting that I would miss my station and end up traveling with them wherever they went.”

Ahmad says he felt compelled to share the stories of “ordinary” people like himself who had traveled to Lahore for greater opportunities, as he felt their voices were missing from the main coverage of the city.

“It’s about people telling the truth about themselves and the truth about Pakistan,” he said. “I use only their words and not mine.”

Touching stories

Ahmad's many meetings on the bus are presented in his self-published photo book

Ahmad’s many meetings on the bus are featured in his self-published photo book “Lahore By Metro”.

Faizan Ahmad |

“Lahore By Metro” contains a number of moving stories, including the story of a subway worker who moved to Lahore after her husband divorced, working large shifts to earn enough money to fight for custody of her three sons. .

The anonymous woman’s children now live with her in the city and use her salaries from work at the station to support them and pay for their education.

Ahmad also shares the story of a Muslim handshake driver in his 40s who remembers the resistance he faced after falling in love with a Christian woman.

Although the couple tried to make their relationship work in the beginning, they are happily happy and traveling together on the Metrobus.

“These stories may not be on first year television, but they are important and beautiful,” says Ahmad.

Like many of those featured in “Lahore By Metro,” which contains about 250 stories, Ahmad had never traveled on a modern bus before arriving in Lahore.

He used to sit on the roof of his local bus during his commute, so boarding a bus with air conditioning and automatic doors was a very new experience for him at the time.

“People were surprised that there was no duct, the air conditioning and the doors were automatic,” he says. “It was exciting to be on Metrobus.

“I thought, now I have space, it’s a more peaceful journey, why not do something creative?”

Ahmad also captured attractions near metro stations, such as Christmas decorations in Youhanabad, one of Lahore’s Christian neighborhoods, and celebrations marking the anniversary of the death of Sufi saint Data Ganj Baksh.

Crowdfunding success

The Lahore Metrobus was launched in 2013 and covers only one 27 km route.

The Lahore Metrobus was launched in 2013 and covers only one 27 km route.

Faizan Ahmad |

Although it had originally secured a traditional photobook publisher, this arrangement was due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As a result, Ahmad decided to launch a campaign on the global crowdfunding platform Kickstarter in order to raise enough money to publish 100 copies. of the book, targeting $ 5,000.

“Kickstarter was a new thing for Pakistan,” he explains. “I was hoping for $ 6,000.”

The campaign started in January 2021 and Ahmad quickly reached his original goal after receiving great support from the locals. He then set a new target of $ 15,000.

At the time of writing, the crowdfunder had raised more than $ 20,000, with Brandon Stanton, the man who helped inspire the project, among its many supporters.

“I was over the moon,” says Ahmad, who is in the process of self-publishing 1,500 of his books. “I’m not sure who told Brandon, but I was so happy.”

Not only has the crowdfunding campaign significantly exceeded its goal, but it has also shown Ahmad’s work to a much larger audience internationally.

“Now so many people from all over the world approach me and ask me to talk to students,” he says. “People from Yale and Oxford are buying my book.”

The positive response to the project was particularly satisfactory for Ahmad, who has no formal photography education and took the majority of the images on his iPhone.

While growing up in Basirpur, a small Pakistani village about 150 kilometers from Lahore, the prospect of studying photography was something he could never seriously consider.

“It was my dream to go to art school,” he says. “But it was very expensive for me.”

Ahmad’s interest in art and photography books first began when he spent time at the local school library in Basirpur where his mother worked as a librarian.

Unfortunately, by allowing younger children access to the library resources, she lost it and as a result lost her job.

He plans to use some of the extra money raised to donate copies of the book to his village, as well as public libraries and schools in some of Pakistan’s disadvantaged areas.

“I hope more young people will see my book and get inspired,” he says. “I was interviewed live on the news in Pakistan and I received so many calls from my village.

“People saw me and said ‘now we think you wrote a book. “I want these people to know that someone like them can do it.”

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