Photographer Sa'adia Khan focuses on the people of Pakistan in a new Dubai exhibition

The photographer captured images of people living in the country's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) for Pakistan Behind the Headlines

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For a new photography exhibition, which is showing in Dubai this weekend, British Pakistani photographer Sa'adia Khan travelled to Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) between 2014 and 2017, to capture pictures of patients being treated by Medecins Sans Frontieres/ Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

Now, you can see the results at a 34-photograph exhibition, called Pakistan Behind the Headlines, being held at the Pakistan Association Dubai in Bur Dubai, from February 8-9.

Click through the photo gallery above to see eight examples of Khan's work.

Each image captures first-hand experiences and moments in lives of women, men and children who feel like the "forgotten people of Pakistan".

Khan tells us more about this poignant project.

Pakistan Behind the Headlines captures first-hand experiences of people living in Pakistan's FATA. Sa'adia Khan / MSF
Pakistan Behind the Headlines captures first-hand experiences of people living in Pakistan's FATA. Sa'adia Khan / MSF

Why did you choose to focus on this subject in your work?

I was commissioned by MSF to visit FATA to document the project there, attain images and patient stories. Once there, it was always my endeavour to get as much non-medical-related material as possible, as this is what really conveys the essence of an area and the people residing there.

I was humbled by the experience. FATA is often in the headlines, but what we fail to see is that lives there are no different to other regions of Pakistan. As a photojournalist working in Pakistan it is imperative that such regions are explored and understood.

What was the process you used to capture the images?

Every project has its own set of challenges. FATA is a little higher on the spectrum of security. Sensitivity and the approach is key to capturing images in sensitive regions, as there is an involuntary urge to just capture everything.

Connection with the subject and understanding their apprehensions are paramount. Most people that I’ve captured in these images have never been photographed. So to be presented with such a situation is daunting.

I have worked in Pakistan for over a decade and am in tune with the cultural and religious dimension.

right - Asma 8. left - Shabnam 6
Sisters Asma (right), 8, and Shabnam, 6. This is Sa'adia Khan's favourite photo in the series. Sa'adia Khan / MSF

Are there any works in particular that are your favourites? 

Every image has its own story and evokes emotion, however the image of the two sisters is one that makes me smile in particular. When I captured the image the mother was rather concerned about viewing it. My fear was that she would ask for the images to be deleted. This was not the case. She commented that I had made her daughters look beautiful. I was stunned, as the girls are beautiful.

What do you hope visitors leave thinking or feeling after seeing your work and this exhibition?

Most people arrive with the view that they will be subjected to images with graphic content, depicting violence. The images are a genuine depiction of normal people living normal lives, [yet] subject to the elements and some hardship. In general people leave with insight into a region plagued by violence and insecurity, but with a feeling of compassion and awe.

What are your plans for the work after this exhibition? 

This is the first exhibition within the UAE and we are hoping it will roll on to Abu Dhabi and Sharjah at some point in the future.

What else are you focusing on at the moment? 

I work primarily in Central Asia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan with a number of international organisations. My focus is Pakistan for other long-term projects and I'm hoping to spend more time in the northern areas. I'm currently working on a transport-related project and would like to focus more on landmines and malnutrition.

Pakistan Behind The Headlines is showing in Dubai on Friday, February 8, 2pm-9pm, and Saturday, February 9, 11am-8pm at the Pakistan Association Dubai,