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In Conversation with Danial Shah

In Conversation with Danial Shah

Back in 2008, an aspiring photographer decided to travel from the South of Pakistan to the North.  Being an avid reader of history books and a regular viewer of Travel Guide of Pakistan, this young photographer set out to experience the valleys of Hunza and Gilgit and dwell in the rich history, culture, and diversity the region boasted.  With his prized camera, he clicked shots of the scenic beauty before him.  This trip was what set the course for award-winning travel blogger Danial Shah to professionally pursue photography, detailing stories of human interaction with culture and nature.

“I launched iExplore Pakistan, my travel blog, on my return to Karachi.  Initially, a few small-scale magazines picked up my stories.  Fast forward to 2017, my work is now published in Dawn, Express Tribune, the New York Times, TED, and Herald.”

Herald 2017 Cover Story by Danial Shah

Shah attended the Emerging Leaders of Pakistan program in 2014.  From the political humdrum of D.C. to the melting pot that is New York; the fast-paced culture of California, and the scenic winters of Michigan; Shah explored the American way of life, the harmony in diversity, and connected with fellows that have helped strengthen his network.

Along with the cultural diversity of the East and West coast, Shah also had a chance to interact with American travelers – Jim and Pi – who hosted him for a weekend in Michigan.  “The scenery over there was so different!  I would wake up to a snowy morning with a deer strolling outside the house and great conversations about travel, culture, and humanity with my host family, who shared my passion for travel.”

Photo by Danial Shah

Shah’s unique coverage of Pakistan cultures (The Many Faces of Life in Pakistan) has recently been published on the TED website.  His current work involves weekly feature articles on exploring cultural diversity from across Pakistan [Read Society: Long Trek to Education]. His photography speaks to the interaction of humans with history, culture, and one another.  “We are generally quite alienated towards the diversity that exists.  Through my work, I want to change that narrative and provide people with raw relatable stories from across Pakistan.”

Now internationally published, Shah credits the exchange program for landing him his first international assignment.  “We visited the office of New York Times (NYT).  There, I had the opportunity of meeting the editor of the Pakistan and Afghanistan desk.  A year after that meeting, he gave me my first international assignment with NYT where I did the photography for a feature story on Saeed Book Bank.

Shah with his students on a field visit to the Gadani Ship Breaking Yard.

Along with telling the story of Pakistan through his lens, Shah also teaches photography courses at University of Karachi and Institute of Business Management in Karachi.  He regularly conducts photography classes with children from underprivileged communities across Pakistan on a volunteer basis.  “During the exchange, we visited a social enterprise called Witness who were working along the same lines.  It gave me a great opportunity to share my experience and reinstated my faith in the power of photography for educating and empowering communities.”

He has also given motivational talks detailing his travels at the Community Jamat Khana, TEDxSZABIST, and TEDxNUST.  His exhibition, “The Other Side”, featured travel photographs from all around Pakistan.  In September, he also exhibited his work at the Islamic countries Photographer’s meeting, Konya, Turkey sharing his work on the social and traditional life of Pakistan.

His latest project includes teaching photography to teachers in Karachi, as part of the campaign “Badal Do” where he encourages teachers to appreciate diversity over discrimination through the tool of visual diplomacy.  Personally, Shah enjoys a nice cup of chai (tea) during his assignments.  As he says in his article Travels with Chai, “The one thing connecting the Himalayas with the Arabian Sea is a cup of steaming tea.”  You can learn more about his work by joining Shah on Instagram by clicking here.





Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN) is an association of U.S. exchange alumni who are committed to making meaningful contributions to Pakistan and comprise of current and former Pakistani participants of U.S. federal government-sponsored exchange programs.

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