Altamash Javed Photographs Pakistan’s Melting Glaciers

"Once you see Rakaposhi, there's no going back"

Altamash Javed Photographs Pakistan’s Melting Glaciers
Yaseen Dockrat

Altamash Javed is a Pakistani Photographer known by his Instagram handle @ALJVD. Originally an investment banker, Altamash turned to photography when banking became ‘all too much’. Through capturing some of Dubai’s best monuments, he gained a massive social media following. On Instagram alone, Altamash has upwards of 80,000 followers.

The Dubai-based photographer returned to Pakistan on a recent visit to capture some of the majestic mountains that surround the Hunza Valley. This trip through the mountains of Pakistan brought the stark reality of climate change into focus. Pakistan’s 7,253 glaciers are melting away at an alarming rate, while the country is also facing one of its worst floods ever, with experts estimating that one-third of the country is underwater. Altamash talks to YUNG about his work, the mountains of Pakistan, and focussing on the environment.

Altamash Javed Photographs Pakistan's

Where are you from and where are you based?

I am of Pakistani origin. I was born in Abu Dhabi and have been raised in the Middle East. I am currently based in Dubai.

Where do you go for inspiration?

It may sound like a cliche, but nature. It always recharges me. However, I must do it alone. Another place is museums… I love museums.

Altamash Javed Photographs Pakistan's

From investment banking to photography, with a massive 80 000 followers. First how? And second why?

Well, I do both now, ha-ha.  But photography did save me from investment banking for a while. I had become miserable with the banking world for some time and knew there was another side to me I needed to explore. I decided to make some changes in 2015 and got out of my introverted shell. I started attending these amazing talks by photographers all over town and that inspired me. I then met an amazing community of photographers and artists here. As for the massive following, it is great, but I don’t pay attention to numbers anymore. Once you stop caring about it, you get back to shooting for yourself and that is what is more important.

Altamash Javed Photographs Pakistan's

You recently photographed a series of mountains in Pakistan. Tell us about this project

The “mountains are calling and I must go” is embedded in my DNA. I am completely fascinated by them. They are, for me, one of the Creators’ great works. Forget what you see, think of how deep a mountain goes. They are just majestic.

I had a chance to visit the Hunza Valley. Situated in the northern area of the country, it has some of the highest mountains in the world. In fact, out of the 14 mountains in the 8,000m club, five of them are in Pakistan. The highest ones have been captured plenty. I did not go with that extreme plan. I aimed to go with the flow, explore the valley, learn about its history, and of course photograph my journey.

The mountain that I have fallen in love with is called Rakaposhi. Standing at 7788m tall it is the 26th highest mountain in the world. But the way it towers over you makes even the 8,000m club look small. If you look at K2, yes, it’s huge, and you would have to reach it step-by-step. Once you see Raka, there is no going back.

Altamash Javed Photographs Pakistan's

What did you use to photograph the mountains?

I currently use a Fuji XT4. I had a 70-300mm lens for the mountain trip that I used exclusively. Lightweight is important to me if you want to enjoy your photography.

It is interesting to note that different people look at the same photograph differently. As a photographer what is your view on this?

I agree with you completely. It’s a thought I had when I first started photography.  It also is the key that distinguishes someone just taking a photo from an actual photographer. I’ve had countless people tell me they’ve been to a certain place or city and never saw it captured that way.

Altamash Javed Photographs Pakistan's

Climate change is having a massive impact on Pakistan. Did you notice its effects on the mountains?

One of the first observations you make when you visit northern Pakistan, besides the beauty, is that the glaciers are all melting away. I spoke to many local elders who told me that it was the first time they were seeing glaciers melt and not come back at the same pace as before. But this is not new information for those who took climate change seriously. I urge everyone to watch a documentary called Before the Flood. It will show you indisputable facts about climate change.

Altamash Javed Photographs Pakistan's

We have gone over the edge though, as Pakistan is witnessing the After the Flood event. One-third of the country is now flooded, and what makes it more tragic is that Pakistan has one of the lowest percentages of carbon emission in the world – less than 2 percent.

The previous government was actively bringing the issue forth, both domestically and globally, but this has now changed. The country sometimes feels like it cannot catch a break. But the people once again show resilience and will come out of this.

I would like to urge the public. If you are able, then please donate to the rescue efforts and let us take climate change more seriously. Several charities and nonprofit organisations are currently taking donations to help with Pakistan flood relief. From Pakistan Red Crescent Society to Muslim Aid Pakistan. Alkhidmat Foundation Pakistan to Muslim Hands. Simply click the links to help out.