“I do a lot of different things. It’s unfair to peg me down as a photographer or a photojournalist. I teach at Indus Valley, have a small jewelry business and write for various magazines. I have an interest in couple of things with social impact but generally it’s all creative work through various tools.” Back when she was younger, Khaula wasn’t a patient child. She was trying to figure out what she wanted to do and would become impatient when things weren’t working out. “It was part of a process, and perhaps things could have been different,” but Khaula believes whatever happens, happens for the best. This young, light hearted photographer loves her work and goes to great lengths to pursue her passions.
Khaula’s mother was her support system and never enforced her opinions on Khaula. She let her be rather than pushing her to fill some societal standards like getting married before a certain age. Basically, her mother never told her there was something she couldn’t do. “She’s seen the kind of work I found my way in, the niche. It’s not something many women get into in, especially in Pakistan at least.” Now witnessing her daughter’s achievements, we’re sure Khaula’s mother is happy and proud.
Khaula has made the journey but faced turbulence on the way. Since she’s a freelance photographer, her work is based on projects. Pushing and motivating herself is a big challenge. She’s on her own, without any team so all responsibility falls on her. “If I slack off, there is nobody pushing me to do the work. Doing everything for yourself, you can’t switch off easily.” Khaula realizes everything she’s doing, every effort she’s putting in, she’s building herself up, piece by piece. Since she’s a creative individual, she invests most of her time in photography, but she knows it’s good to be diverse. “Stay in touch with youth, impart what you have learnt, the ideas generated, diverse things. That helps in your craft.”
So how does she manage her work with her life? According to Khaula, it depends on project to project. Sometimes she’s unable to strike that balance, especially when she has to travel to different parts of the country working on time consuming and deadline based projects. But when such projects end, she tries to take at least 2-3 days, if not a week, off. Whenever Khaula is in town, she goes for fitness workouts. Obviously, she can’t follow a much regimented plan, but tries her best regardless. She’s a petite girl and has to carry a lot of camera equipment including her lenses and tripod on her shoulders. For that, she needs upper body strength. “I have to make sure I eat well and that I go for stamina building classes. That’s important.”
Khaula believes financial independence is very important, however, “this isn’t at all to say that it’s not necessary to have a companion who supports you. That’s someone to bounce your ideas off.” If you haven’t found someone, it’s essential you have financial security and emotional strength in whatever you’re doing. We could do with encouraging that in our society a lot more. Khaula, it seems, has gained this independence and security from her work. Now, rather than adjusting her schedule according to the needs of her clients, it is her clients who ask for dates and availability and plan projects accordingly. This way she manages to keep some time for herself and for hanging out with her nephews, nieces and sisters.
Khaula grew up in Pakistan and growing up, she didn’t study too hard. She didn’t get the opportunity to go abroad and that’s something she was really looking forward to do. After many years, Khaula applied for the Fulbright Scholarship and much to her surprise, she got it. It was her only chance to explore the world. She knew it was more than just an opportunity to go abroad and get a degree. “I saw this as an amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where for 3 years, I could live and immerse myself in different cultures with all expenses paid for.” Unsurprisingly, getting the scholarship was her Miracle Moment. Khaula Jamil teaches us an invaluable lesson; to pursue passion, even if it means doing five different things or breaking a lot of social constructs along the way. Don’t lose hope even when the odds are low – hard work and dedication always pay off.