Malik Khalid Awan runs the Peshawar photo studio that his father Malik Ahktar Rehman, pictured below, started some fifty years ago.


During World War II Mr. Rehman worked as a clerk for the British Army in Karachi and Rawalpindi (commonly called 'Pindi for short). Afterwards he took up a post as an accountant with the American Consulate in Peshawar. He came to photography as a hobby, teaching himself from books. In 1962 he opened Malik Sons.

Malik Khalid Awan started working alongside his father when he was still a teenager. In the beginning they used large format plate cameras and employed two artisans, Sayeed Ahmad and Ahmad, to retouch and hand-colour portraits.

"Sayeed Ahmad was a master," Malik Awan recalls, explaining how his father's employee used to remove the customer's wrinkles with pen and brush; how he used water-colours from Germany and was careful to keep the yellow and browns for the skin tones separate.

The discussion moves onto Afghans and the box camera, and Malik Awan mentions how during the Afghan-Russian war he and his father took "beautiful pictures".

He's being ironic - clearly - and follows up the comment making chopping gestures on his arms and legs. As well as their studio work, Malik Awan and his father worked as press photographers, at one point taking photographs at a surgical hospital in Peshawar where Afghan amputees were treated. Tens of thousands of Afghans lost their limbs because of the wars.

Around the shop, rows of faded brown envelopes are piled on top of one another, packed with negatives the studio has accumulated since 1962. The whole top compartment of the shop is full of them, he says: forty years' worth. He shows us one with the serial numbers 1901-2004: it's from 1964.

"What will happen these negatives?" we ask.

"Many shops destroy them," he says," all over the city."

Malik Akhtar Rehman passed away in 1990 at seventy-three years of age. He worked alongside his son until the end.