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Sam Phelps February 6, 2012

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Pakistan.

From the Series ‘Train Portraits’. Pakistan 2010

Sam Phelps (b. 1981, Australia) completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Digital Media at the College of Fine Arts, Sydney in 2003. He worked as an Assistant Photographer on fashion shoots before embarking on his first dedicated endevour into the world of documentary photography in mid 2007. After crossing the Khyber Pass to Kabul he subsequently became embedded with one of the US Coalition forces that was responsible for provincial reconstruction. His most recent story documents Qat production and consumption in Yemen. He has shot assignment and been published with publications including Time, The Times UK, Liberation and Der Spiegel.  Sam recently completed an internship with VII Photo agency Paris and is currently based in Pakistan.

About the Photograph:

“This photo was taken on the Khyber Mail, a Pakistani mail and passenger train that travels from Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and terminates in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city at the southern tip of Sindh province on the Arabian Sea after 35 hours travel. It is the first portrait I took as part of an ongoing series titled ‘Train Portraits’. The subject was the train conductor and somebody good to have on your side when undertaking a project of this nature given he could decide to call the police authorities riding in the carriages at any time and shut down the shoot. His name was Muhammad Baghah Mughal, a 43 year old devout Muslim fasting during the month of Ramadan. I was attracted to his spotless white uniform, a remnant of colonial pre partition India Pakistan and the rail lines that were laid within the sub continent to unify the British Raj.”


“By catching a train from one side of a country to the other, meeting and talking to passengers along the way and asking them simply ‘Where are you going?’, recording their responses and photographing them I attempt to construct a portrait of the individual and of the greater community. Train travel since it’s inception has offered the voyager an often romanticised and contemplative experience of getting from A to B. The subjects, their responses and gazes out the window of a moving landscape reflect their own lives moving forward and perhaps the inevitability of our own mortality. The responses from passengers can offer a perspective of the current state of affairs for ordinary citizens in the country. Most of the Pakistanis that I talked to and photographed did not have a positive outlook on the current state of their country, although many of them, generally driven by their religious faith were hopeful of positive change in the coming years.”