JZ Aamir is a young Pakistani who has been living and working in Dubai for years. He merged his passion for photography and Arabic calligraphy into the one thing that fascinates him the most today: light calligraphy and light graffiti.
Religion seems to be the leitmotif in JZ Aamir‘s light calligraphy, but the artworks he denominates as light graffiti appear to have a worldlier character. His traditional photographic works seemingly unite both of these aspects. Since this talented artist just started a project on the 99 names of Allah (swt), the beginning of the month of Ramadan was the perfect moment to ask him some questions about the role of Islam in his work, and about his life in Dubai.
Could you tell a little bit more about yourself as an artist?
“I’m into light calligraphy since the past two years. Calligraphy has been my passion since childhood. I learned calligraphy watching a local TV show called “Khatat” (‘Calligraphy’) and by practicing with a bamboo pen on a wooden board. After graduation I came to Dubai and developed an interest in photography, especially in landscape and cityscape. But something was still missing. I wanted to combine my passion for calligraphy with the art of photography, so last year I learned a new photographic technique called light graffiti. I was very impressed with the work of mister Julien Breton. That’s why I ordered different types of LED lights and starting practicing. But the results were not what I expected, so I decided to build lights myself, suitable for light calligraphy. This is how the journey began.
The camera produces a mirror image of what you write. To avoid flipping in Photoshop I have to write in reverse. All my images come straight out of the camera, they have not been Photoshopped in any way. At initial stages I used to draw in a dark room setup with a camera on a tripod and a few lights. A few months ago however I’ve started doing light calligraphy outdoors, using famous landmarks as a backdrop for my photos.”
You are originally from Pakistan; what brought you to Dubai?
“Due to lack of scope after graduating in computer sciences in my home country in 2003, I decided to try my luck in Dubai since some of my other family members were already running successful businesses here. So settling here wasn’t very hard.”
How does moving to Dubai and living there influence your work?
“UAE has offered me space to do what I’d like to do. Since I discovered the light graffiti technique while being in Dubai, I couldn’t have asked for a better place this rich in culture and heritage values. Plus it offers the most famous landmarks in the world which can be used as a backdrop for my outdoor light paintings.”
We often hear that immigrants are not treated well in the Gulf. Do you feel the same way, as an artist of Pakistani descent living in Dubai?
“I believe that every country has certain rules and regulations. If you follow them then there’s no reason for them to treat you badly. My other family members who were living here for a decade would not have invited me to Dubai if they were not happy. I got whatever I asked for: safety, security, a good job and a better lifestyle.”
What is your favorite piece of art of the ones you have created so far?
“All my artworks have been created with passion, hard work and a lot of practice, So I can’t name one. Even if it has required more work, if I don’t like the results, I don’t publish it.”
What are the art projects you have planned for the future?
“I don’t want to limit myself to Arabic calligraphy. I would like to learn and create calligraphy in other scripts as well, such as Hindi, Chinese and Japanese.”
The Holy Month of Ramadan is an inspiring time to many. What do you think of when you think of Ramadan?
How does Ramadan influence your work?
“Ramadan is month of blessings from Allah (swt) towards his entire Muslim umma. And to thank Him for all his blessings upon me, I’ve chosen the month of Ramadan to start writing the 99 names of Allah (SWT) to praise His existence.”
You are currently working on the project on the 99 names of Allah (swt). Not only in your light calligraphy but also in your work as a photographer, religion seems to be coming back as a central theme. Is this the main inspiration for your work?
“The main inspiration came from the Arabic language actually. I have always been fascinated by the strokes and curves made to create the words. I’ve decided to start with Arabic words, shorter words with a stronger impact: Al Noor, Masha`Allah, SubhanAllah, Iqra` and Alif Laam Meem, to name a few.”
Do you consider making art to be a part of the way you express your faith and as a part of your religious practice, just like, for instance, praying or going to the mosque?
“’Religious practice’ are words too strong for what I do. Maybe, but my intention is merely to portray my passion for art and calligraphy. This can be in different forms and shapes and by using different languages in the modern art of light graffiti.”
What are your main goals with your artwork? Is one of those goals to encourage people to be more spiritual?
“Haha! No please. My main goal is to promote art and calligraphy using light graffiti.”
Do you have a special Ramadan wish for our readers?
“First of all Ramadan Kareem to all! And second we should try our best to get as many blessings from Allah (swt) as we can not waste it by sleeping while fasting.”
Photos: © JZ Aamir
This post is also available in: Dutch