THE BLOG
12/13/2012 04:40 pm ET Updated Feb 12, 2013

Sadia Khatri: Photographer Behind 'Humans of Pioneer Valley'

Intent on photographing the couple with matching outfits, Sadia Khatri plays with her spoon in her empty ice cream cup. She waits for the couple to leave the café and then prances after them as they reach for the door. Sadia asks them coyly if she can take their photograph. The man turns around and grins, "I was wondering when you were going to ask me that!"

Sadia Khatri was born and brought up in Karachi and had never traveled outside Pakistan before coming to Mount Holyoke College to study. She is a junior with a double major in Astronomy and Journalism and Media Studies. She speaks perfect English while adding random Urdu words such as "toh" which means "so" and "haan" which means "yes."

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Sadia's interest for art and photography stems from her adventures in Karachi's art and culture scene. She often attended concerts, literary lectures and community art shows with her sister, Fiza, who also attends Mount Holyoke College. As a lifetime observer of Sadia's passion for photography, Fiza one day sent her the link to a popular Facebook blog called "Humans of New York." "Humans of New York" was started by a self-taught photographer, Brandon Stanton. He roams the streets of New York City and finds fascinating people to photograph. The portraits are rather simple, but his captions usually include a short commentary or recollections of conversations with his subjects.

In fact, Sadia had taken on a similar project in the summer of 2011, before she came across "Humans of New York." She took photographs of children who spend most of their time living by the roadside in various commercial areas of Karachi. These photographs were eventually displayed in an exhibit in Karachi, after an entire summer of exploration into a culture that is often observed but not often delved into by people living above the poverty line. Underneath each photograph, there was a quote from the corresponding street kid because she wanted to convey their perspective on life through their own words.

One day, Sadia's friends at Mount Holyoke proposed the idea that she should start the blog based in the pioneer valley region called "Humans of Pioneer Valley." Natasha Ansari explains, "Just like New York and other localities, it really does have its own flavor. I think Sadia also realized this herself! I thought Sadia with her camera and genuine interest in meeting people and photography would have been ideal for the project, so I just urged her to go through with it."

Due to an immense amount of schoolwork, Sadia does not spend a lot of time working on the blog. In order to make up for lost time, she tries to keep her camera with her at all times because she's never sure what she might find. She can be found around campus with her neck and shoulders drooping from the weight of her camera. "Once I was going somewhere and there was this kid drawing on the sidewalk with chalk. And I was like 'Oh my God I wish I had my camera!'" she exclaimed throwing her hands up in the air.

Sadia explains that almost anything can grab her attention, from the clothes her subjects wear to how they wear them to what that person is doing. "I think a lot of it is just instinct though, you know? How sometimes you exchange a look with someone on the road or smile at them? That's a good sign. Stop them and say hi. Usually that works." Sadia is still rather cautious when approaching a potential subject for a portrait. In spite of this, the subjects seem to notice her small figure and large rounded glasses, and they immediately become at ease with her.

Sadia Khatri exuberates talent in many facets of her life. Nevertheless, she stands in the shadows of her camera with a simple goal: to capture another person's beauty.

By Ailsa Sachdev, Mt. Holyoke College

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