By Jane Keller Gordon, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Sahib Zulfiqar’s breathtakingly beautiful photographs of South Asia and New England are now on display at the Westborough Public Library through Thursday, Sept. 8. Two days later, the work will be exhibited for a month at the Lyman Street Storefront Gallery, near the Art and Frame Emporium in the Westborough Shopping Center.
Ed Turner, owner of the Art and Frame Emporium, coordinates the shows at the library and the Lyman Street gallery.
“Through my contacts I come across of a lot of talented artists… Sahib ranks in the realm of excellence. He has a unique eye for composition,” he said.
Maureen Ambrosino, Westborough’s Library Director, added, “I think that this might be one of my favorite exhibits… I keep on coming down on my lunch break to look at these pictures.”
Zulfiqar, who grew up in the Punjab region of Pakistan, has lived in Westborough with his wife and three children, aged 11, 16 and 17, for the past seven years.
His life in the U.S. began in 2000, when he and his family moved to Minneapolis for his IT job. It was there that Zulfiqar’s passion for photography began, when he took an online course with the New York Institute of Photography.
About a year later, Zulfiqar and his family went back to Pakistan, and then lived in Saudi Arabia, San Francisco, and Atlanta. An IT consulting job at the University of Massachusetts brought them to Massachusetts. Zulfiqar is now a senior database administrator for the UMass University Information Technology Systems.
Zulfiqar is a fine art photographer who sometimes spends years on a photo before he considers it done. Among others, he was influenced by Julia Anna Gospodarou’s (en)Visionography, which is described as, “The process of using reality as a tool for translating one’s inner self and representation of the world into an art object that can make others resonate.”
His uses composition, alteration, and modification to achieve images that each tells a story. Zulfiqar shoots with a digital camera, and than uses Photoshop to darken and lighten areas of the image to enhance the focus on the subjects. He said that this technique, called ‘dodge and burn,’ was “… elevated to an art form by the great Ansel Adams himself.”
Each photograph in the Westborough exhibit represents hours of work by Zulfiqar.
“Using a light pollution map, I find zones where there is less light. I choose a location, do research, and have a preconceived notion of the image,” he commented.
Waiting for the perfect sunrise or sunset, he will brave hours of heat and cold.
“Every picture has a painful story,” he joked.
For example, shooting one photo, “The Wave,” he said that he was hit by water for two hours, over and over again.
Sometimes, capturing gold is random. Such was the case with “The Skardu Girl,” one of the most riveting photographs in the Westborough exhibit. It’s the one that Ambrosino said she is constantly drawn to in the exhibit.
The photo was taken in 2005 in Baltisan, a disputed mountainous region between India and Pakistan. Zulfiqar said that he travelled there on a treacherous and very long bus ride, followed by hours of hiking. At first the girl who is in the photo was fearful, because most likely she had never see a camera before.
But she looked directly in the camera, he recalled, allowing him to capture her wide-eyed expression.
“We never talked,” he added.
The photograph resembles the “Afghan Girl,” the iconic 1984 National Geographic image.
He has sold some of his pieces and donated the proceeds to The Citizen’s Foundation, which builds schools in Pakistan. Photos may be purchased directly from his website.