How a love for photography catapulted Nida Alvi to Instagram fame


Travelling and photography amalgamated are a passion which is enthralling and exciting. Considering the astronomical growth of social media platforms, photography has become ubiquitous with Instagram.

And photography buffs in Pakistan have adopted the platform in droves and its scenic beauty, history and places are thronged by such enthusiasts and captured with their smartphones and DSLR’s.

Thanks to the advances in mobile technology, the camera’s on smartphones have evolved into legitimate competitors for professional DSLR cameras and have provided photography enthusiasts to showcase their talent.

In an exclusive email interview with Pakistan Today, we caught up with Nida Alvi, a photographer extraordinaire whose Instagram account is a source of inspiration for many an aspiring photographer.

Alvi says she draws her inspiration from the beauty of ‘nature’ and “God is the biggest artist!” Elaborating about the divine, she said: “You can’t imitate what God has created you can just observe those beautiful intricate details and capture them.”

Image: Nida Alvi

While talking about how photography changed her perception about life and the visual representation it embodies, Alvi said “How photography changed my perception is hard to define but I know the way I feel things now as to what I used to feel when I was a teenager, is definitely because of photography. I always wanted to capture those fleeting moments which otherwise of course just vanishes in a few minutes.”

Her journey into photography commenced with her brothers’ digital camera which she used to take pictures of close friends or picnics, to document those invaluable moments.

However, irrespective of the countless things she has captured with her camera, there is nothing more enamouring to her than capturing a sunset.

While explaining her obsessions for capturing sunsets, Alvi says “It fascinates me every single time and it’s Never the Same!”, she says.

Image: Nida Alvi

Moreover, Alvi believes photography changes a person’s perception towards things. “It’s such a beautiful way to convert what you see, how you see that thing and then show the world your perspective,” she adds.

When asked about how Instagram has popularized photography into the mainstream due to the advent of social media, Alvi believes it slowly grows on you and then it becomes irresistible and hard to live without–but in a good way.

While expressing about her experience of joining Instagram, “I was lucky. The year I joined Instagram, mobile photography was a thing, which despite its many restrictions, lets you experiment more, especially at how you see things and what angle would look best,” she says.

However, Alvi believes mobile photography has played a major role in shaping her style of photography. Considering mobile photography is inherently challenging, “but that’s how you learn, that’s how it fuels your passion to learn more about it and experiment more,” she added.

Alvi’s Instagram feed is an interesting mix of portrait, street, nature, abstract and other forms of photography which she feels is a reflection of her inner nature.

Image: Nida Alvi

Also, she loves capturing anything and everything. “Although I feel abstract is not my thing, I love it but somehow I can’t do it as much as I want to”, she says. As far as the rest of photography is concerned, she feels that it just comes naturally to her. “It’s hard to pick one, to be honest. I guess I enjoy portraits the most but then again it all depends on my mood!” she continues.

Expressing her unconditional love for travelling to the northern areas, Alvi said is like an addiction and once the travel bug bites her, there’s no known cure to it except to pay a visit there! She believes that travelling and photography are synonymous with each other and when you have a passion for both it takes you to another level.

Image: Nida Alvi

Interestingly, her outlook about nature photography is quite different. Alvi explained, “I hated how my pictures turned out initially, especially of the snowcapped mountains.”

She thinks that the scale and the grandeur of mother nature cannot be done justice to! “The calm I feel when I am among the mountains is just magical, it makes your heart full! She recalled.

In response to how Pakistani photographers are doing on Instagram, Alvi believes they are doing a fabulous job portraying a positive image of Pakistan vis a vis tourism, considering how negatively it has been portrayed over the years.

She added that the significance of social media and photography in this regard cannot be denied. “A lot of foreign tourists and photographers are visiting our country and going gaga over it.” She especially recalls an incident where a Norwegian commented on her photograph and said that Norway seemed boring in contrast with the rich culture of Pakistan.

When queried regarding the thriving domestic tourism due to a major lull in terrorism and improvement in security, Alvi feels that Instagram can act as a conduit in encouraging more foreign tourists to visit Pakistan.

“A lot of foreigners are interested in visiting Pakistan. I know of a lot of my Instagram friends who have been contacted by foreigners for touring Pakistan”, she says.

Alvi’s unconditional love and admiration for Masjid Wazir Khan is beyond her wildest imaginations. The answer to what makes her visit the beautiful mosque, again and again, lies in her childhood. “I still remember the time when I used to see pictures of Masjid Wazir Khan I felt as if I had this connection with that place.”

It was back in February 2014 that she visited the mosque for the first time and it was just magical. “I sat there for quite a long time. Took pictures but thought they weren’t doing much justice to the place,” she says. She fell in love with the mosque before visiting it and now she just cannot stop. “The place is beautiful beyond words.”

Image: Nida Alvi

Offering some words of wisdom for aspiring Instagrammers, Alvi said they shouldn’t care about the number of followers. “That doesn’t matter. It’s your work that matters the most”, she says.

Moreover, she encouraged photographers to not imitate other people’s style but develop and find their own. “Take your time and experiment, you will get there.”

Alvi cautioned fellow Instagrammers to never resort to gaining attention by following people just to unfollow once they follow back and “there are some basic Instagram etiquettes that should be followed”, concluded Alvi.