Mustafa Ilyas is a professional photographer and videographer, and owner of Mustafa Ilyas Photography. He graduated from IBA in 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. Ilyas has been an inspiration to many students and amateur photographers at IBA. His success did not come easy; it took years of hard work and persistence. Here is a link to his page: https://web.facebook.com/Photography.MustafaIlyas/
How did it all start?
“Hasan Zubair Bhatti was the Manager of the IBA Photography Society when I joined it. He was a great support at that time. He guided me when everything felt new and strange. He helped me get into a number of places. One of the very first competitions that I took part in was called ‘Karachi: A Phoenix from the Ashes’ and I won the third prize. I travelled all the way to the venue of the competition on my bicycle, Velo. It boosted my confidence. This achievement was very important to me because it pushed me forward to do what I love. I knew I had it in me.”
Why is photography important to you?
“As the examination dates would get closer, I would start receiving calls from the finance department asking me to pay the semester fee. There have been days when I took an exam which ended at 9 p.m. and covered an event right after at 9:30 p.m. And then I had an exam the very next day early in the morning. I couldn’t avoid this hectic schedule because I had to clear my financial dues. Photography helped me graduate from IBA.
Also, I have always been interested in other people’s stories. There are people who record stories by writing but I wanted to capture these stories through my camera’s lens. I wanted to make my own storybook, a book that only includes illustrations. It started from IBA. I started covering events and the expressions of my friends and other people randomly. Then I had my own official page where I posted albums. I have always been a keen observer and I thought I could do justice to this art form. Photography helped me get close to people.
The place closest to my heart is Kashmir. Every picture I take is connected to me in some way or the other. Photography has also taken me to wonderful places, so much so that they remind me of heaven. Photography helped me visit places that I never thought I would get to visit.”
Do you have any story affiliated with this place that you would like to share?
“In 2016, we were coming back from Kel, Kashmir. There was a girl who, along with her cousins, came and sat near us. She kept observing us while we were waiting for the rest of our team. We were wearing pants and shirts. Our attire fascinated her so much that she couldn’t stop staring. This is when I thought of starting up a conversation with her.
Me: Kia naam hai apka? (What is your name?)
Her: Bibi Sobia.
Me: Apko kabhi Karachi janay ka dil chahta hai? (Do you feel like visiting Karachi?)
Bibi Sobia: Nahi. Mujhe yahan kay pahar pasand hai aur zindagi mein bohat sukoon hai (No. I like the mountains and life here is at peace).
Bibi: Aap loag yahan kia kar rahay hain? (What are you doing here?)
Me: Hum pehle Muzaffarabad gaye wahan hum nay khana khaya. Phr hum Kutton gaye wahan hum nay khana khaya. Phr hum Shardah gaye wahan hum nay kahan khaya. Phr hum Keran gaye wahan hum nay khana khaya. Phr hum Arang Kel gaye wahan hum nay khana khaya. Ab hum idhar hain yahan hum kia karaingay? (We went to Muzaffarabad and there we had food. We went to Kutton and had food again. Then we went to Shardah and had food again. We went to Keran had food. We went to Arang Kel and ate. Now we are here what will we do?)
Bibi: Mujhe nai pata. (I don’t know) (She was too cute. She didn’t realize she had to answer “eat food”).
I randomly said to myself that it’s been days since we’ve had home cooked food. Meanwhile Bibi Sobia whispered something into her cousin’s ear, who then ran off.
Me: Apnay usko kyun bheja? (Why did you send her away?)
Bibi: Hamari gaye phirti hain na humain unka khayal rakhna hai. Agar aik bhi kho jaye humaray maa baap ghar se bahar nikal daingay. (Our cows wander around. We need to go and take care of them. If we lose one, our parents are going to kick us out of the house).
After a while, I saw her small cousin bringing a blue bag. I pretended that I hadn’t seen it. They offered it to me and it was home cooked ‘bhindi’ and two ‘chapatis’. I couldn’t believe it. I got something that I wished for, here in Kashmir. God showed us that this is heaven for us. Whatever you wish for, you will get it in Kashmir. Kashmir is paradise.”
Did you ever plan your future/career? Did you ever think that you will reach so far, in terms of achievements?
“I was always uncertain about the future of my career. People used to demotivate me by asking “ismain guzara hoga kay nahi?” but I put my mind to it. I told myself that I want to do this because it’s my passion, not just a source of income.
I never thought of life as a competition. I never wanted to soar so high that I’d leave everyone behind. I wanted to move ahead and succeed with everyone else, not alone. I didn’t want to hurt anyone in trying to achieve my own goals.
My parents and my grandmother used to tell me that no matter what you do, do it with all your heart. Some people feel like doing everything at the same time; trying to pursue multiple career paths whether or not they are passionate about them; in hopes of being successful somewhere. But there is another way to achieve something. Do one thing at a time and stick to it. You might fall once, twice or even thrice, but ultimately you will rise. And once you rise, nothing will seem difficult anymore. I chose the latter option for myself.
I think we all need to know one important thing: we learn throughout our lives. Learning is a process. If you think you know everything, there’s a problem. All you need is to have an aim. Just be consistent. I told myself that I have to graduate from IBA. I couldn’t think of failing because I had to pay my own fee. In pursuing this goal, I changed my life forever. I don’t regret any part of my struggle, and that helps me enjoy my success today to the fullest.”