This 20-Year-Old Student From Karachi Brilliantly Highlights Social Issues Through Her Impactful Photography

By Aisha Saeed | 1 Jun, 2019

Breaking the monopoly of the male gaze in the media is no easy task. Globally, we certainly have a long way to go when it comes to presenting the female body and the female experience as examined rather than objectified; observed rather than owned.

Abeer Tanveer, an immensely talented photographer, is utilizing social media as a platform to illustrate these representations of women through her images – to show us what needs to be seen and what needs to be known.

A Media Sciences student in her second year at SZABIST, Abeer illustrates not only the social constructs that exist to keep women in a state of vulnerability through her pictures, but also offers juxtaposing narratives which serve to empower and put women in positions of strength.

Abeer spoke about the social function of her photography in conversation with MangoBaaz, expressing how she feels that “a photograph can say a thousand words and have a thousand meanings.”

“Portraits, in particular, are so powerful,” Abeer says, “and I want to be able to portray different perspectives through the variety of my photos. I hope that people see my photography as creative, socially and politically correct and fun.”

As much as Abeer wants to show these different perspectives, it is also important for her to encode her own meanings and messages.

“I do also want my audience to see my perspective on things because there are certain themes I follow and that I am interested in. For example, I did a whole segment on mental illness and I feel like these pictures were important because they highlighted how mental illness is experienced by women and the reality of how such labels can impact us.”

She also went on to acknowledge that “if people aren’t readers then a photograph can be super powerful to communicate a message.”

This led us on nicely to talk about her favorite photo as it is from this very collection which explores the stigma surrounding mental health in Pakistani society. Abeer took us through the vision she had and how she set about capturing it.

“I told my friend that I wanted to recreate something that goes on in her head. I then named a couple of mental disorders and asked her to say things that people had said to her in relation to these disorders.”

“We then put all of those words around her and I think a lot of people who go through it can relate to the language in the picture.”

Source: @serveabeer2.0/ Instagram

It’s no secret that mental disorders are not taken seriously or addressed respectfully in our culture.

Quite often people going through mental health issues are marred with negative labels like ‘crazy,’ ‘stupid’ or ‘dramatic.’ Abeer addresses this discriminatory language – which only serves to further marginalize people – in this audacious and emotional image. She also expressed that this perception of mental health often stems from the older generation in Pakistan, highlighting how “now the younger generation is actively standing up for such issues but it is still an issue for parents – they don’t understand.”

Subverting labels and stereotypes attached to groups can also be seen in another segment of Abeer’s photos.

A collection of images that showcases the goth subculture of the ’80s allowed Abeer to experiment with style and iconography in a different way. She talked about how in that particular series she was “trying to normalize the goth image.”

“A lot of people disagree with or have something to say about women listening to punk rock or rock music. They think we’re just angry women when it’s not like that- it’s just an interest.”

Abeer also touched upon how she wanted to use the goth image to show men wearing makeup, affirming that “there’s no such thing that a guy can’t wear makeup. What’s wrong with it?”

Abeer describes herself as an “intersectional feminist.”

This branch of feminism takes into consideration other parts of our identities which contribute to disadvantaged treatment such as class, ethnicity, and age. Not all women are discriminated against in the same way because of these factors. When asked about what intersectionality means for her, Abeer articulated that “Western feminism predominantly deals with middle and upper-class white women. Intersectionality acknowledges that everyone, regardless of culture, ethnicity, class, etc should be treated equally.”

Abeer resolutely states: “True feminism is intersectional and so, it is not feminism if it isn’t inclusive. If we’re not standing up for all women, we’re not standing up for anyone. And for men too – intersectional feminism includes men and other non-binary genders.”

Such an inspirational stance from Abeer here resonated with the sentiment created in the Aurat March earlier this year. The protest saw thousands of people across the country, rallying together with an unforgettable selection of signs and slogans. Abeer herself was part of the crowd.

Source: Abeer Tanveer

Her banner, “My body my choice,” made her vulnerable to insane amounts of online trolling, resulting in numerous rape and death threats and body shaming. Abeer didn’t let that be her only memory of Aurat March, though. She recalled the spirit on the day and reminisced about how the energy was incredible.

“I could literally feel and see it in myself,” Abeer recalls. “Even the men were so happy and joyful. I don’t think I’ve seen that before. People were dancing. I haven’t smiled like that in my entire life. When we were marching on the road, that was the safest I’ve ever felt. It’s sad but true.”

When asked about her plans for the future, Abeer talked about her real passion: writing.

“I’d love to release a few poetry books. I love writing and have a few ideas already. After my final year at university, I really want to take up a Masters in creative writing in New York or Boston. With photography, I love the fact that I can spread messages so I’ll always carry it forward as a hobby but writing is my passion. That will never change.”

You can check out some of Abeer’s poetry on her writing Instagram page

View this post on Instagram

do you remember when we were children? and we would run through the grass and cut our knees on soft pavement? do you remember how we used to sing loud? and our voices were like thunder and the notes struck like lightning? or did you forget those times? Did you replace them with tears of the heart? And anger from your bones? Now you bruise your heart instead of your knees and you sing for the choir instead of the sky. Do you remember a time when you were a child? • • // 17th May 2019 // #poems #poemsporn #poemsofinstagram #poetryisnotdead #runawaywriters #writerscommunity #writersofinstagram #writersofig #writerslife #spilledthoughts #spokenwordpoetry #spokenword #artlixirpoetry #aesthetic #poetryaccount #poetrycommunity #poetryporn #poeticjustice #poetryofinstagram #poetsofinstagram #poetsofig #inked #thoughtsonpaper #writers_den_ #writersnetwork #writersfollowwriters #writersofig #writersconnection #writersuniverse #writerscorner #poemasdeamor

A post shared by Abeer🥀 (@cynicalmusings) on

(She: An Impromptu is my personal favorite).

I don’t know about you, but I certainly take great comfort in the fact there are young women like Abeer actively addressing the treatment of women through their art and attempting to offer a different narrative. Safe to say that Abeer’s creative streak and tenacity will lead to incredible success!

Why not take a look at some of her photos and writing and let us know what you think in the comments below?


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