Rendezvouz with sohail anjum


Sohail Anjum

Sohail Anjum is a name synonymous with photography in the U.K. Born and bred in London, this son of emigrants from Pakistan started his career when he dropped out of college and took up this field of work. Over the years he has taught himself the art of capturing life and has emerged as a force to reckon with. He has been the photo editor of the renowned Eastern eye magazine and currently serves as a freelance photographer for Asiana magazine. Perhaps his greatest strength is that he is what they refer to as an all-rounder, from photo journalism to fashion photography to  nature still ands weddings he has and continues to do it all. Some of the eclectic publications his works have appeared in includes, Asiana & Asiana Wedding, Eastern Eye, India Today, Verve Magazine (India), Libas International, The Evening Standard, Mail on Sunday, News of the World,  Ahlan Masala (Dubai), Marwar (India). His clients have included, Yash Raj Films, Western Union & Star TV. This scribe had the unique opportunity to sit down with him recently and ask the following questions.

1) What does it feel like to have done so many diverse shoots over your 12 year stint as a fashion and publication photographer in the UK?



Ab himself


It feels awesome. It’s been an interesting journey over the last 12 years. The opportunity of having been able to photograph a wide varied range of subjects has helped me to discover so many different avenues of photography. I’m glad that I’m not type casted as just being a one style of photographer and have the ability to photograph various subjects.

2) How did it all start for you and when did the idea of taking photos first occur to you?
I had always been taking photographs as a youngster with my dad’s old style film camera. Digital camera’s never existed back then. So i guess i always had a hidden talent inside of me. But the talent didn’t emerge until i turned 20 when i had just dropped out of university and wasn’t really sure which direction to head in. It was then i decided to take up a course in photography which bought out the talent in me. From there I had decided that photography was where I wanted to head and after that there was no stopping me.

3) As photographer of Asian decent, having worked with so many south Asian celebrities as well as international fashion icons did you feel that your background was a hurdle or a help?
Initially when I first started off it was a big hurdle as there were hardly any photographers of Asian descent in media, I had no contacts in the industry and there was no one to give me guidance. I had to build everything as I went along. Getting my first break in media helped me get over that hurdle and it provided me the opportunity to photograph Asian celebrities and fashion icons which has helped me build up an impressive portfolio over the years



London Premiere Love Story 2050, Pryanka & Herman

4) A photographer has to often do work like weddings and events which might not appeal to the narcissist in them; do you feel your work is a service or an art?
I would consider my work as art that is offered with a service. A lot of photographers that usually venture into wedding photography mainly do it for one reason and one reason only and that is to make money as wedding photography is a lucrative market.
Wedding photography was never my first option as my heart lay in photojournalism which I mainly focussed on. Upon having achieved my goal in photojournalism it was only then I started taking up wedding assignments. Now on the odd occasion when I do photograph a wedding i often tend to apply my photojournalist skills to capture the moments.





5) Who would you chose as your muse in your long career for you? Who do you think was the best and the most interesting subject to photograph?
If i had to choose a muse in this world then it would have to be Angelina Jolie, whom i managed to capture during the first ever IIFA Awards in London, but i know the chances of Angelina Jolie being my muse are very slim. There are couple of UK  models i have worked with, such as, Tia and Hema Kansara, Alana Wallace and Kayleigh whom I’d always work with in the future. From Pakistan id like to have ZQ and Tooba as my muse and from India it would be Salome Polaki and Sayali Bhagat.
Most interesting to photograph was Christopher Lee, what was meant to last 20 minutes ended up lasting two hours and me being a fan of his having grown up watching his movies. Most funny to photograph was Vivek Oberoi as he kept goofing around during the shots and made it fun and entertaining. And the most memorable I will never forget about is the Kashmir Earthquake.
I always enjoy photographing people who are down to earth with a non-egotistical attitude.




6) You were the picture editor of the eastern eye for 5 years? How would you compare a high profile position like that to freelance life which you lead now, which in your opinion is better for a creative person like yourself?
Being a picture editor for Eastern Eye taught me a lot about the media industry and helped me build contacts and open doors for me but as a creative person it restricted me to what i could and couldn’t do as i was always working to a set of given instructions. As i freelancer now i can cross creative boundaries and create things the way I want too. Also as a freelance there’s more flexibility in your time, whereas before i was working set hours as a picture editor.


7) Tell us something about the pictographic collection of your work “the divine destruction”?

The project was the brain-child of a well renowned journalist, Aamir Ghauri who has been a great mentor throughout my photography career. When the earthquake struck in October 2005, every Pakistani in the UK had been affected directly and indirectly by one of the biggest natural disasters to have hit Pakistan.  And as a photojournalist, it was something i felt that needed to be documented and brought it up in a conversation one day with Aamir. As this had been one of the biggest disasters of this century, Aamir had been brainstorming and thinking, how could we keep this memory alive in many years to come and that is when the idea of a coffee table book about arose which become titled  “a divine destruction” – natural disaster as it being an act of GOD.
i flew over in the 3rd week with a delegation of MPs from the UK. What was meant to be a 10 day trip turned into two weeks documenting as i travelled the different cities of northern Pakistan. Upon my return to the UK i held two exhibitions under the same title and helped raise funds to help the victims.

8/ Why do you think the media back home still has no clue of people like you who are representing our country in such a big way abroad?

This is something for the Pakistani media to address as to why they never profile or highlight successful Pakistani’s abroad! There are other successful Pakistani’s such as actors Rez Kempton and Ace Bhatti, rap artist, Shizzio, boxer Amir Khan and DJ Pathaan whom people in Pakistan are totally unaware of but are very successful over in the UK. Perhaps journalists need to start looking outside the boundaries of Pakistan.

9) We have many budding photographers in Pakistan, what would you recommend in terms of start up equipment for them and would you ever offer internships or classes on this art you have?
To start off with, you don’t need anything too high tech, just a simple camera where you can learn about aperture and shutter speed and how they all work in conjunction with one another.  You would also need to have an understanding of lighting and iso film speed rating. These are the main things to master; rest comes with what you see with the creative eye.
I have never thought about teaching at this moment in time, not sure if i have the patience to teach … maybe in another 10 years time.

10) What message would you like to give to your fans all over the world and the youth of Pakistan?
I would like to thank everyone who are aware of my work and have appreciated the work I have created over the years and the years to come. To the youth of Pakistan, if it’s photography you decide to take up as a career then put your heart mind and soul into it.




Neha duphia
Jacqueline Fernandez


As published in The Friday Times on 25/12/2009

All photo’s in this article are the exclusive property of Sohail Anjum and have been taken by him, all rights reserved