Emmanuel at the Pride of Pakistan award ceremony in 2021. Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: Brimming with energy and colours, the landscape, culture and people of rural Sindh fascinate in a way that few places do.

Sindh feels like seeing life through a kaleidoscope when viewed from the lens of duEmmanuel Gud – the photographer who captures the heart and soul of the region, showing to the world that life in rural Sindh is not as dull and dusty as generally assumed.

“My photographs are changing the perception of Sindh, showing the vivacious culture, simple people and stunning architecture of my beautiful home region,” said Emmanuel Guddu in an interview with Gulf News. The 42-year-old freelance photographer hails from Sindh’s Mirpur Khas city, best known for its delicious mangoes.

The photographer from Sindh says this is one of his favourite photos as it captures the human-animal bond which is very strong in Tharparkar Desert. Image Credit: Emmanuel Guddu

Incredible culture and people of Sindh

Emmanuel, who is famously known as ‘Guddu Pakistani’ on social media, says that his biggest accomplishment is to show the Sindh that needs to be seen and known. “I can think of no greater honour nor privilege than knowing that I have lived a life, creating images, sharing the stories and struggles of the incredible people of Sindh, the culture of the beautiful land I call home,” he shared during the interview.

The photos sometimes are surprising not just for foreigners and residents of other regions of Pakistan but even the people of Sindh themselves as not many locals travel outside their hometowns, he says. Emmanuel calls himself the ‘Awara (wandering) photographer’. “Photographers are passionate people who are willing to go to any length to share their passion with people,” he believes.

Man standing with his camel at Karachi’s Sea View beach, the most popular beach in Clifton area. Image Credit: Emmanuel Guddu

What inspired him?

Born as a Catholic Christian, he belongs to the Kachhi Kolhi Hindu community in Sindh. He found his inspiration early from National Geographic magazines in which the pictures of the cultural and historic sites and vibrant communities moved him. “Those photos inspired me and I decided I will also show to the world the unique culture of my land.”

Personal life and photography career

Emmanuel, who is the eldest among his siblings, wasn’t able to continue education after 10th grade as he was expected to start working to support his family. Remembering the tough days, he shared that his father worked at the community church and his mother as a seamstress, struggling to put food on the table and raise the family. Later, the family sent Emmanuel to Lahore to become a priest at a church where his maternal uncle served as the priest. But that is not where he was meant to be.

Ranikot Fort known as ‘The Great Wall of Sindh’ and believed to be the world's largest fort. Image Credit: Emmanuel Guddu

Emmanuel’s professional photography career started in 2010 when he went to capture the impact of the 2010 floods, the worst in Pakistan’s history that submerged entire towns. “Some of the portraits of flood survivors in Sindh and the enormity of the floodwater that I captured went viral,” he shared. It was then that Emmanuel knew he had found something he wanted to passionately pursue: photography.

Stories behind the photographs

His brilliant and breathtaking photographs reveal that Pakistan’s province of Sindh is home to fascinating architecture and shrines, majestic deserts and lakes, rural tattooed women, exquisite pottery and handicrafts, mud and straw houses, unique traditional food and beautiful birds.

In one photograph taken in Tharparkar, a woman in her traditional, vivid red dress, is seen feeding her brilliant blue peacock. The image is among his favourite. “This photo captures the pure human-animal relation. This bond is strong in Sindh.”

The beautiful Botar Lake in Sindh, full of lotus leaves, located in Achro Thar (The White Desert) in Khipro. Image Credit: Emmanuel Guddu

Many of his pictures capture the rural women of Sindh, working in the farms and at their homes, in their bright traditional dresses, faces hidden behind the veils and wearing white bangles from wrist to the entire length of their arm. “Our women have tattoos on their faces, necks, hands and even on foot,” he shared. It is this unique rural culture and heritage that he aims to show through his photographs and videos.

Another famous shot captures the beautiful Botar lake that looks like a forest from above as the lake is filled with green lotus leaves. “This lake is located in Achro Thar (White Desert). This desert hides more than 200 lakes.” There are hidden details and stories behind each of Emmanuel’s photos.

“The beauty of these places is mesmerizing but the stories of people are heartbreaking, sometimes too painful. The family I visited recently told me that they don’t have enough food even for the children,” says Emmanuel, who is as soulful as the pictures he takes. The poignant pictures depict the high prevalence of malnutrition, food insecurity and poverty in rural Sindh.

Emmanuel at Chaukhandi tombs, an early Islamic cemetery in Sindh, Pakistan, built during Mughal rule sometime in the 15th and 18th centuries. Image Credit: Emmanuel Guddu

Architecture of Sindh

With his photographs, Emmanuel has also put the spotlight on the magnificent architecture of Sindh such as the Faiz Mahal (Palace of Faiz), the majestic remain of the Talpur Dynasty in Khairpur, Ranikot Fort known as ‘The Great Wall of Sindh’ and believed to be the world’s largest fort, Chaukhandi Tombs that are famous for their intricate design and detailed sandstone carvings and the exquisite shrine of Sufi saint Sachal Sarmast among others.

He currently captures stellar images with Nikon Z50 and Mavic Air 2 drone camera but says he is looking for a more professional and affordable camera. While this age of technology and smartphones allow people to take hundreds of photos within minutes, the world still needs photographers like Emmanuel whose images bring clarity, capture the beauty that surrounds us, and make us look through our eyes and hearts.

Women cooking meals in a region near Sanjar Chang Dist Tando Allahyar of Sindh Image Credit: Emmanuel Guddu

Pride of Pakistan

His photos have earned worldwide recognition with exhibits held at several embassies of Pakistan. In 2021, he won the ‘Pride of Pakistan’ award for representing the best of Pakistan through his photographs.

“It brought tears to my eyes when I first learned that I have been selected as the ‘Pride of Pakistan’. I was invited and awarded at the same ceremony I used to watch every year on March 23.” Emmanuel’s dedication and passion inspired his 13-year-old daughter Asha to follow in her dad’s footsteps and pursue photography as a career.

Emmanuel Guddu’s work can be found on Facebook and Instagram @guddupakistani and on Twitter @emnpk