Artist Talk with Maryam Wahid

BA (Hons) Photography graduate talks to Head of Photography John Hillman about everything photography, religion, identity, diversity and being a Muslim woman studying at Birmingham City University. Click here to find out more about Maryam’s journey after graduation and the success she has enjoyed as an artist.


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[00:00:02] John Hi, Mariam, and nice to see you again after quite a long time. So, yeah, my first question to you, my first conversation piece is really, um, can you just tell us briefly or elaborate if you wish -  what happened after you graduated and what what kind of things you did and what happened to you, the kind of success, the high points of your your career, as it were to date? Because I know lots of things have happened and I've kind of tracked back round, but it'd be nice to just hear a kind of potted history of those. You graduated in-


[00:00:43] Maryam 2018, yeah.


[00:00:46] John So we're now in just about 2021. So yeah, what's happened since?


[00:00:51] Maryam Yeah, I think it was quite overwhelming actually because when I was in my final year that's when I started to really - you were new on the course, you'd become the Head of Photography at that point. And I could sense that the course was changing. I also felt hugely reassured when you became the Head of Photography because the structure was just changing and all of a sudden, from commercial work and documentary/other work, was now okay to explore. So, you know, you kind of introduced different theories and ideas to the course, which I thought was really encouraging, definitely encouraged me to explore my my own identity in photography. So I don't think you need to go prior to my third year because that was the first year you started. But in my first and second year, a lot of my work was based on fashion and documentary. And that was the only way I felt that my academic course in photography was accepted by if I took pictures of my heritage and my cultural identity. I felt very awkward before. I just didn't feel like it fit the syllabus or the the the curriculum.


[00:02:14] Maryam So yeah, I mean, when I when I did all those things in my final year, I guess I took the self-portraits and I explored my identity. All of a sudden people were interested. You, my peers, my tutors, everybody was very encouraging and they were very intrigued by my approach to photography and how I used photography to explore my identity.


[00:02:44] John So from what I'm understanding, at one point you were kind of working in a fairly conventional way in terms of photographic subjects. But were you were you always interested in your identity then? Was that something that was kind of really intrinsic to who you are, rather than just because its part of the course.


[00:03:04] Maryam Yeah, absolutely. Because when I did photography as an A-level, you know, my tutor, like a lot of art professors, they're absolute nutters and they just love to promote anything. And when I was at college, I literally took photographs of my album. I create these photo montages. And I really enjoyed that.


[00:03:27] Maryam I felt like everybody on my course was also just doing whatever they wanted to do. There was no restrictions. So, yeah. And then when I when I got to university, I almost felt like there was only documentary only, you know, fashion, only landscape, only product. It was very commercial-lead in the first and second year. So yeah, I mean when I graduated, I mean prior to just graduating, I applied for Portrait of Britain. I think that was the real push to just keep going. So one of my portraits was selected for the Portrait of Britain and I think that just felt really reassuring. And I just never looked back. I continue to just keep on exploring those themes and stories that I felt connected with my heritage, with me as a person, but also just my community here in Birmingham. And so, you know, living in England and being surrounded by so many South Asians, I want to really see what it meant to actually be all those things, and how I could kind of deconstruct that using photographs and images. And I still am trying to do that as a British Asian.


[00:04:38] John And part of your practise is I remember, I know that you did you did a series of shoots which were kind of quiet, I suppose in some ways they must have kind of emerged out of your fashion practise because they were kind of fairly traditionally shot portraits. But then you you did a lot of work with you kind of found imagery, didn't you, with your parents photo albums and things like that. So as I see it, there was a shift in your practise, but is that something that's still oscillating between the two things - found images that are kind of historically relevant?


[00:05:16] Maryam I think where there is. I mean, like that's it's such a good question, because for me, like, I love portraits. I feel like that that's just the kind of technical side of me. Like, I love taking pictures of people and then I love fashion. But then I also like photographs and photo projects that particularly tell stories. And it might not be simple to kind of see them in a few pictures, but stuff that actually really breaks down within us through all the elements of, you know, if it's in sound or visual and videography and then it's combined with photographs. I don't find it hard to balance the two. I think thats your question - going between the two? Because I just feel like there's certain projects that fit the portraits theme or that the kind of fashion, heavily fashion influenced in this set of projects that don't necessarily need that.


[00:06:16] John Yeah, and so from there, what were the kind of big things that have happened to you as you've gone through- so Portrait of Britain, you did the Grain Mentorship as well.


[00:06:30] Maryam Yeah, those are the big things, I think, in terms of like actually feeling like my story matters and I can actually do this professionally because I don't know if you know, but even at university, I felt very nervous, like showing my own self portraits. I mean, we had these conversations and I just felt like it was really awkward to even talk about this. I mean, I was the only Muslim and Asian girl in the class as well. So it was super nerve racking. So I just felt at the time that people would judge me. But really, that wasn't the case.


[00:07:05] John Would you say that is you personally, as in you Maryam, or is that sort of slightly infused in the kind of structure of university and also culturally? So there's three points that I'm making, really is your lack of confidence, do you think that's you? Or at the time that perceived lack of confidence, or is that kind of slightly cultural for you?


[00:07:31] Maryam No, no, I think at the time I didn't really know what it was. But when I was at college, quite similarly, where it was very diverse, the course was led by a female white tutor. And I just felt like she encouraged everything. You know, she encouraged all kind of arts and all the students as well. They were doing their own thing. And I don't know, I just felt like for my experience at the university, it was almost like I just didn't see that same energy and that same vibrancy, which is probably what made me just stay quiet and not really do it and not really explore what I wanted to actually explore until my final year. But that's not to say that that's an excuse to discourage or, you know, just kind of put people down around me. I just think it's something that should be spoken about openly. And that university should introduce bringing in people from all kinds of practises, because I don't think it was just about me and my identity, but it was also about the lack of diversity within photography and on the course. So you're only really taught how to take good fashion pictures and people from the fashion industry would come in, but they were just BTS photographers that would come in and teach us. So it was kind of like a combination of things, its not just to put down that type of thing.


[00:08:58] John And I mean, that's an interesting thing to explore in and of itself, and I'm very conscious that I'm kind of white male, whatever atheist kind of person coming at this and then you with this kind of young female Muslim practitioner. And obviously you weren't really showing anyone like that that you could identify with. And whereas I could probably identify with most of the kind of photographers that I saw as an undergraduate and we now see around. So I suppose, was that a kind of problem for you in some sense, that there wasn't a kind of clear figure ahead that you could kind of go, that's me or that could be me.


[00:09:41] Maryam Certainly. Certainly. I mean, again, it's come back to the point that I don't even think that. But I feel like my experience was that I didn't really get even the foundation level of of knowledge. And a lot of the artists I looked into were just independently I searched, I had really intense mentoring sessions with like Ravi and these kind of tutors and visiting lecturers. And I would speak to people online to try and really get my foot in the door in what I was trying to do with my work. But there was I feel now, looking back, there was a huge issue because I didn't actually have any direct inspiration. It was all very indirect. Like I like the works of different artists that weren't actually looking at identity. They were looking at the veil in a fashion way and they were looking at different things. So, yeah, I feel like that's where the problem really was.


[00:10:39] John And and d'you think and this is kind of more of a speculative question, I guess, from your experience from graduating and through to sort of the future. What would be the challenges of you or other kind of, let's say, minority people working in the industry? And we I think it was at the time you were there and certainly the year after we identified that whole issue around, we had lots of females on the course, but most of the time we were kind of the photographers that we were showing that was successful were male and middle aged and white. And it did really feel like a problem with the exception of people like Kate Peters and Claire, who kind of we talked in detail about that was there. And I just wonder for you, has this been has your kind of identity, your cultural identity and also your gender, et cetera, et cetera, been have you felt there's been an issue in terms of engaging with photography outside of university and the kind of the wider world of photography that you've now entered into?


[00:11:43] Maryam Um, I would say it has been challenging, but the work I do now, I the way I think of it is that I work on projects that are quite complex and the storytelling projects. So it might not be everybody's cup of tea. Not everybody is going to be engaged with the British Asian identity. Not everyone's going to be interested in that. And that's fine by me. I'm OK with that because I know this many curators and individuals out there that are complete fanatics about stuff like this. And they really enjoy this kind of art. But yeah, I would say it's been challenging in terms of one finding that inspiration, know whether that's within your own circle or within the university environment, but then also the lack of tutors that are, you know, actually aware of the work that's being created on identity heritage, whether that's racism or whatever it is. I think there's a huge need for more diversity in the teachers themselves.


[00:12:58] Maryam And yeah, I think education, what you did as well, you introduced a lot of theory based lectures, and I wish that from my first year I was receiving lectures like that that were really thought provoking, that would really encourage you to really read around and about the subjects that really intrigue you as an image maker. I think Andrea - she came in and I remember she did make me read a lot about the subjects I'm interested in and some really boring books as well. But they were really, really good because they connected exactly with what I was trying to look up with in my dissertation, in my everything, my projects, it went hand in hand. And I think that's why academics are key. But academics from all kinds of experiences and all kinds of backgrounds, they need to also this needs to be a diversity in that as well, because there's no point getting somebody specialised in fashion photography, Ph.D. in the imagemaking fashion in the fashion industry and not doing not having someone whose actually into something that's a bit more different to to fashion and documentary - what the typical stuff is. Basically, they should go for the oddities as well, go into the different stuff


[00:14:26] John I suppose one thing one question I would have for you is, do you think your identity as a Muslim and I guess sort of fundamentally is a minority here? I was just thinking about the idea of you went to Pakistan, didn't you? Was it a couple of years ago and did some I'm just wondering, how is it to work, like you've worked in the UK and done your your projects here and I guess you're kind of received fairly positively because you're quite unique. As I say, I can't think of many people that work a) in the way that you work and b) that have your your kind of standing, as it were. Is that when you go somewhere like Pakistan in the same way, you know, when you were there? Do they treat you in the same way or is it different? Is it better or you kind of like more confident because that's where your culture is kind of really the the majority has the majority standing.


[00:15:24] Maryam Well, yeah. Well, I would say that Pakistan itself is so drastically different culture to British Pakistanis, like how they're used to growing up here. I went in 2019 for a research and development project for the British Council. And I would say that during the actual research trip, I even visited a few Biennales and the art scene is very hot there. Like there's a lot going on and there's a lot of artists that are working in photography, in sculpture and painting and all kinds of art. When I actually worked there, though, in terms of taking pictures, I guess there's nothing really to comment on there in terms of how people reacted because it was all, again, family and friends and they were actually quite encouraging back home because they found it really intriguing that somebody living in England was really interested about their family history and their story, and they wanted to know them in Pakistan. So that was a good response. But in terms of like the actual work environment, I guess it's very elitist. I would say the actual the art culture, there's not many kind of governing Arts Council. There's nothing those kind of arts councils there in Pakistan, as far as I'm aware, anyway. So that was interesting to see that in England we have that kind of support and, you know, those kind of organisations facilitating this as artists. But then it was also interesting to see how people are actually making it work for them. So I met a lot of independent artists out there, women artists. If I could compare myself to someone, that's why I mentioned this. I found a lot of independent female artists just making it work for them. And they were creating work and they were then selling stuff, selling their prints and stuff. So that was that was their way of kind of really promoting them was as Asian or like female artists, but also just making it function for them because they're not exactly getting funding to do that work. So that was interesting.


[00:17:42] John Yeah, and it's interesting. So obviously, I think the challenges right now for a lot of artists and practitioners, the difficulty is kind of getting funding and then sharing work in an innovative way. I mean, goodness. So that's really difficult. You mentioned that you that you went as part of a project that was part of Arts Council funded project. Was that a larger project?


[00:18:10] Maryam Yes, it was. It is still running right now. It's called the Transforming Narratives Project. And that project is it's been funded by the Arts Council, British Council. And it is particularly a project that is working between Bangladesh, Pakistan and Birmingham. And it's just kind of marrying all the different communities together and bringing artworks and exchanging between countries through art, basically. So it's it's a very interesting project and I was in the first phase of it, which is the research stage of it. And my particular my focal point of that research was looking at the female identity in Pakistan. And that was all kind of inspired by my own upbringing in Britain. And I hadn't been to Pakistan until 2019. So that was very different to me because all my life I grew up on my mother telling stories about her hometown and what she would eat and the life she would have and and then going to Pakistan for the first time and experiencing that myself and then speaking to women and speaking and comparing them to the identities of women here and women in Pakistan. That was all part of my research. And I also created some portraits as one of the women, which can be found on my website and its the Women's Journey project.


[00:19:29] John All right. So from what you said about that project, you sound like the perfect person to have kind of been engaged in this.


[00:19:40] Maryam It was a very interesting experience because like I was interviewing the women and obviously I was twenty three years old at the time and just listening to them about their stories. And some of them were women of all kinds of ages. And Pakistan's a very diverse place. So you'll get all kinds of ethnicities there. So then meeting people from all different ethnic backgrounds within Pakistan, but having the same culture as such, like traditional culture, it was very interesting to hear their stories. And I remember coming back thinking, oh my God. Like, I felt like I lived 50 years. It was a really overwhelming experience and definitely was very humbling because you just hear everybody's stories and you think, you know, that could have been my life. You just start thinking all sorts, but it's very interesting.


[00:20:27] John This reminds me of the conversations we had when you were a student. We obviously talked a lot about photography, but we also talked quite a lot about your culture and your identity, your Muslim religion, belief and stuff. When you went to Pakistan and you said that was the first time you went, did you feel like you'd been (trying to think how I'm going to phrase this now), but sort of coming from Birmingham, being kind of a British Muslim, did you then in going to Pakistan,  did you feel that you connected with how they were there? Was it kind of as you imagined or did you feel a bit like a kind of a different person there from in the way that you might from the minority here?


[00:21:18] Maryam Yeah, I mean, I've never. To be honest, I've never felt like just I want to clarify. I've never felt like a minority as such in Birmingham because its so diverse, there's so many British Asians. So you just can't feel that way. But to be honest, I've never really thought too much about being the only one that's Asian in the room. And I've never thought too much about that because I just I look beyond that. But, you know, when we talk about how things work out and the technical stuff. Yeah. You just just to break it down and summarise, I felt completely out of place in Pakistan. It was the opposite, but I didn't I didn't have any expectations. I didn't feel like, oh my God, this is my home, my earth. Because I'm not that kind of Asian anyway.


[00:22:08] Maryam For me, there's a lot of British Asians that have come before me probably you know, ten or fifteen years older than me. They have felt like an identity crisis because they've not felt here or there. And they they've kind of had this identity issue. But I've always made this very clear that I don't actually feel that way because for me, like I am in the generation where I embrace that I'm British and I also embrace that I have Pakistani heritage. And I think that all comes with it because the generations have kind of moved along the way of it. But yeah, when I went there, I just thought, oh, my God, it was too much for me in terms of the place was very chaotic. And obviously I'm not used to that. I'm used to peace and quiet with my cat and my mum and dad. So it was very chaotic. And in Lahore, because that's where we went. I mean, you should go, John, you'd fit, right in! I don't think you've been to South Asia?


[00:23:08] John No.


[00:23:09] Maryam Oh you haven't, not even India? Oh, my God. I thought maybe in the 70s you would've taken a  trip down to India.


[00:23:19] John No, I'd like to go, but I feel like all the time with these. And that's kind of why I was asking you a little bit, because I always feel like I'd need a chaperone. I need a kind of a fixer, someone on the inside and kind of like keep me safe and just explaining stuff. I'm not very good at reading tourist books and stuff like that. So I'd just get completely lost and out of touch.


[00:23:44] Maryam I know what you mean.


[00:23:47] John You say how you felt there. Kind of like how it is different. And I wonder, I suppose that just exposes your Britishness as well. You know, we all have our kind of our grown up identity. So is there any plans for you to develop that project any more? Is that the kind of end of your contribution to that?


[00:24:09] Maryam So my initial visit was just responding to working on the Transforming Narratives Project, which was gathering research. And while I was out there, I was also creating personal work, which was I'm really trying to just see what my life could have been like if I had been born in Pakistan. So I couldn't help but kind of see myself in my cousins and like people I've been growing up there. I couldn't help but see what my alternate life could have looked like. So I started taking few self portraits of me - self-portraits are my thing now! But I started to see myself in the Pakistani woman identity and then also because I visited with my mother, my mom had gone and met her brother after twenty five years, so she's not seen her brother in that many years. And and then we also went together, we was exploring a lot of the things. So together we went to see a lot of her family and a lot of friends. We visited her home she grew up in and that was the home that her grandfather had bought so initially my mum's grandparents lived in India and now they live in Pakistan because the partition happened.


[00:25:31] Maryam So the home that they've got now basically is the home that my mom grew up in. And then her grandfather also migrated in it. And yeah, so it was a very interesting home. And also, mom had met a lot of her friends from school, but had not seen it for like 35 years, so since she got married, my mom hadn't seen her friends. So that was a really interesting experience. So I wanted to document all that. And we did that over two visits in 2019. So I developed that work and that work's been commissioned now by the Midlands Art Centre - the MAC in Birmingham. So I'm just developing that work and that will be exhibited next year, 2022. And then hopefully I'm going to try and tour that work elsewhere. But it's all kind of just looking at my mom and my relationship with my mom, but then also my relationship with Pakistan as a country through my mom basically. So, yeah.


[00:26:37] John That sounds great. That does sort of sound like the kind of the logical progression for the kinds of things that you were doing. And I know this identity with your culture, but then to actually go there and be immersed in it. I love the idea of the kind of parallel Maryam.


[00:26:56] Maryam I know it was what I naturally did. But I mean, like I was just going to say, it was like earlier when you asked me how is it been like my progression from Portrait of Britain. And as soon as I did the Portrait of Britain I was mentored by Nicola Shipley at Grain. And that was fantastic because I really felt that we had conversations about how I could progress as an artist. And she really encouraged and pushed me and educated me and facilitated me in the world of photography, which is fantastic, but then also encouraged me to apply for, for example, the 100 Heroines project, like I was nominated as one of the heroines. And then I was also speaking at symposiums - like I could never speak like that in front of lots of people, but it was through training and like through encouragement and even things like this, you know, she really encouraged me to do that. And it's led me to achieve some really good things. And I'm grateful that I kept going because it was really encouraged me to just keep exploring these things that I'm interested, like identity and heritage. But also it's really helped me as a person. How do I say this? I would say I use photography for a more spiritual reason now. I really find the answers to things when I am taking photographs, especially like visiting Pakistan and then taking pictures of those signs and symbols that connect with my memory, all of that stuff. It just feels so nice, it just completes me in a way. It feels like I found my purpose and belonging in life, which is quite nice because - the power of photography,


[00:28:40] John So to explore that a little, is that you using, as it were, as a I guess, an expression of something, but also as a kind of in some ways an excuse to do something and excuse the way. Sounds like a really bad word. I found photography was the thing that you could use to kind of go and say you have a conversation with someone, you can go and talk to them and say, I would like take your photograph or find out about something. If there's a process or something, you want to go and photograph it. And and so in some ways, it's almost like the photography gets a little bit marginalised for the overall experience. The thing that you're doing. And I wonder if there's a sense of that, because you certainly from what you said, you know, I mean, obviously tracked your progress through various things. And it does seem like, you know, you're kind of your name has popped up in various kind of contexts. And I feel like that's just really amazing from having gone from the kind of the work that you did as an undergraduate. And I think, as you said, you know, maybe your first couple of years at BCU, you were kind of trying to find your way. But then it felt like you sort of came into focus. And then suddenly when you graduated, it was you were sort of firing off in all kinds of directions. And I know that's not always easy to make that kind of sustain a living out of that. You know, things like this don't pay pay your mortgage. But at the same point, you're kind of raising your profile and raising the contacts and your network that you have.


[00:30:17] Maryam But also I'm doing something that I really enjoy as well. Like, you know, people often say to me, oh, you know, there's like really established photographers that are making lots of money. And they'll be like, oh, it's so good you're doing this. Like, you're really you know, you're really you're basically publishing your work in a way which is something that we don't get the pleasure of doing. So I think that's actually quite it's a nice feeling. It's really rewarding to feel like, you know, your work, you're producing your work, but also your work matters in the current time. And also it's often people find it interesting. So that's that's very nice to see.


[00:30:58] John I mean, that's the other thing, and I haven't said it and I feel guilty about not saying it, but you also produce really good work. Some really excellent work happening in the background. So it's not just, you know, some jolly trips to Pakistan and some great appearances at conferences and things like that. But it's actually about producing some really quality work, which definitely sort of stands out. And I think certainly the work that you graduated with was kind of at that level. But I know the other things that I've seen you've done on your website and stuff, it feels like you're doing some really interesting and this idea of engaging with a different form of practise. So, yeah, there is the kind of standard documentary tropes and things, but there's also the self portrait here which you've done, which I kind of feel like it really it works because as you say, you're sort of trying to work out who you are, I guess, and the images seem to contribute to that. So, what's your future plans for projects and things? So we've got this exhibition next year at The MAC, will that be, I guess, because the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. So there's lots of really good cross cultural things.


[00:32:12] Maryam So, yeah, I know. It's fantastic. So The MAC show is quite big, to be honest. I've been working on that and also the photo gallery in Wales. They'll be showing my work hopefully this year, its just all dependent on covid. It's just been such an up and down few years. I don't even know what year we're in anymore!


[00:32:33] Maryam But, you know, it's I think it's also it's been nice because I've really taken the time to just stop and think about my practise, because prior to that, as you know, I graduated and straight after that I was creating new work. And straight after that, it was like getting offers from like doing, you know, having exhibitions in place. So it was just I felt like it was just one thing after the other. Whereas realistically, as artists, you need to just stop and think about stuff for for a good time, you know, a good amount of time. So, yeah, I mean, that's something I'm looking forward to. So the two exhibitions. But then also I'm creating new work, which I started to do in lockdown. So again, it's all relating to home and belonging in a way. And so this house that I'm in right now, it's it's in my family home. And I moved here when I was about two years old and it was newly built and definitely built for his family. And so one by one, everybody's been leaving and it's just me left because, you know, living the artist life.


[00:33:32] Maryam But then I mean, like living in this house, it's just like I almost have grown a bit of an attachment to it. And so I've been watching my old VCR videos of me like goofing around as a kid in this house, but then also like the thought of actually leaving this house or potentially leaving this house one day, it's quite emotional to even think about it. So I've been kind of holding on to all those emotions and memories of this home through photographs. I've been capturing the house itself. I've also been capturing just all those places that I visited in Birmingham and those things that remind me of home in a way. So it's called When I Think of Home and and that's something I think I'm basically producing right now and creating. And so, yeah, it's just kind of containing memory, I guess, this project,


[00:34:18] John Because that's going to be interesting, isn't it? Because as you say, you're in your time of life. Is that where you do have to kind of push away from home and mum and dad or whatever and kind of move on to start to establish your own life? And I can remember that we all have kind of gone through that phase. And at the same time, when you start to make work about that, it can almost make it more sticky. You just kind of don't want to because it's even more poignant. And you you're kind of extracting all those things and and bringing them back up to the surface. Whereas really in your twenties, I think what you do is suppress all that.


[00:35:00] Maryam That's so true. Yes, definitely. Like, I know that people I mean, I think especially like because I don't know if you're familiar, but usually in the Asian culture, the girl kind of leaves the home when not always it's just a traditional thing. My sisters have left home before they got married, but they the girls would usually leave home when they get married and that's it, they go live with the husband or they go buy their own place with the husband. So for me, it's like even just the thought of letting go of all the stuff is like, no, I can't. This is my home. But yeah, you have to kind of. Yeah, it's almost that transition as well between like, you know, I guess into adulthood and just being an independent, really independent person. It's that transition.


[00:35:39] John Yeah. And then as you said, thinking about the kind of alternate reality of being in Pakistan and you're kind of like facing a traumatic reality through this thing.


[00:35:53] Maryam Probably loads of factors. You're right. Yeah.


[00:35:55] John My dad still lives in the house where I was born and when I go back there, I'm exactly like the things you just said that made me think about that. You know, I can remember running around and playing games and having video, the Super 8 film of myself in that house. And yeah, it still has that when I go and see my dad, which I haven't done for a year now, it sort of resonates. So I know your home can kind of have that draw. A couple of other questions that just sorta spring to mind. Maryam, are you still shooting digital? What's your practise at the moment?


[00:36:43] Maryam I shoot between both. So I use analogue and I use digital. I have a square format, analogue camera, which I'm using and I use my digital camera. I also use my phone. I also use another digital camera, which is a small shoot and go. I also carry a 35mm, I'm crazy because I will carry all these different cameras. But for this for this new project I'm currently shooting on my analogue camera, so my phone camera and I just I feel like it just whatever I shoot in just depends on whatever I'm trying to achieve. I am steering more towards film because I just find that... I mean, it's just so cliche of a millennial saying this, but it just gives you that nostalgic feeling. So that's why I use it. But also, I just I do find there's something about my film images when I produce them that it literally connects exactly. Just hits the spot. I'm able to just really stop and think about the shot. I'm really able to compose that photograph and take time when I'm composing it. With the digital cameras, I find that I'm still shooting good. I still take the pictures, quite honestly, but I just feel like there's something that's too crisp about the picture that I want it to have that flaw in there, the grain and all that stuff I want on there.


[00:38:11] John And what about all the kind of found imagery, because I'm mean, again, you drew on your family photograph albums, but presumably you've run out of those of you or have you been able to find some more?


[00:38:22] Maryam I showed you there's a huge box. I mean, the thing is, I put all my archive images in one place now, but then there's like loads because in this house, people just look at a photo and they just dash it anywhere. Whereas me, I'm really protective of the pictures. But I was going to say the pictures now, I think at the time when I was a student, I found that there was just so many pictures and I didn't know where to start, whereas now, whatever I'm trying to I try and think of the story before looking at the archived images. Yeah, so I think that really helps me to really understand what is it I'm trying to tell me with this project Zebunisa, which is the one I'm showing in MAC, and that's the pictures I've been producing in Pakistan as well. I have tied it in with archived images and that itself has been really interesting because I've actually realised what I've done in Pakistan is I've connected those pictures that I've seen in my album with those places that I've seen like in reality. And that's very intriguing. And and it's it's from small stuff like my mom holding a Coke bottle because that's usually they ordered, like bottled Coke, 7-Up for parties and they order them, like, really ice cold to enjoy. And you wouldn't have that here. You just have fridges and you just pop out whatever drink you want. But I remember then going to Pakistan and seeing these crates of Coca-Cola bottles and then capturing a photo of that and thinking about that moment, but then actually finding those images that connect with that. I didn't know I was doing that when I was actually out there. So I find that that's how the archive images is images are connecting with my actual work. So connecting with my photographs.


[00:40:16] John OK, I'm going to ask that horrible interview question. But where do you see like 10 years time...


[00:40:26] Maryam That's not a horrible interview question. That's like you've made it in an interview. That's the question that people want to hear. Where do I see myself in ten years? I definitely want to see my photographs a lot more established and not just my photographs, but me as an artist. I want my work to be shown in leading galleries and places, not even just around the world. I'm very intrigued in the art scene in South Asia, in the Middle East, there's a lot going on even in America. So I would want to see the work internationally, but also I would want to see the work collected because I find when I was researching university and just generally when I was trying to search for images that could really help me resolve my archive, but also resolved my understanding of my culture and my heritage. There was a lack of Asians in Britain in the last 60 years that were from like homes and the more intimate photographs of missing. We were studio portraits and stuff like that. But there was a real need for a more intimate spectacle of what's actually what is the community right now. I know that Aman Chhabra has a great archive called The Heritage Archive, which shows Asians in Britain, Asians in Wolverhampton and that's a fantastic collection. So, yeah, I guess just those are my two goals. And what I want to achieve and how I want to see myself in ten years probably won't happen, though. Probably will take a lot longer, because that's how life is for artists.


[00:42:09] John OK, and so this is the alternate question - what about the alternate reality, Maryam, who's sitting in Pakistan? What would you have expected for her over the next 10 years, do you think?


[00:42:24] Maryam What do you mean, like a more personal thing? Yeah, probably, yeah, I mean, I would definitely I would want to I would want to have an actual you still want to continue our wedding business, as you know. I do. But I'd still want to continue that. Just have my own home and probably wouldn't happen to the alternate Maryam. But it probably could, it just depends. Yes, I think that's the that's the way I see myself, you know.


[00:42:58] Maryam More independent and that I can just basically provide for myself because that's very hard in the in the artist industry. But I have a feeling when I watch this in 10 years time, I'm going to cringe a lot.


[00:43:09] John I was thinking this will come back to haunt both of us and the horror of our digital legacy. I think we're all kind of creating and then not thinking about what it's going to be when you look back on it.


[00:43:29] John There's more I could talk to you about Maryam, but I'm conscious of time and things, so it's been really lovely to to catch up with you.