Kohi Marri is the person to call for memorable wedding photos.
Unseen and inconspicuous, with a ready eye for moments of happiness, joy and even sadness, Kohi Marri represents the latest brand of photographers indulging in what is popularly known as ‘casual’ photography or photojournalism. A far cry from previous trends related to wedding photography in Pakistan - blinding flash lights, large, unwieldy camera equipment and stone-faced wedding participants - photojournalism has taken the Pakistani wedding circuit by storm with many an individual requesting, nay, demanding that their wedding should sport the best there is in color and sepia-tint photos.
A smile, a laugh, the locking of the gazes of two people hopelessly in love; these are what has caused a major shift in the preferences of customers everywhere, thus ultimately causing the industry to move beyond the typical shaadi shoot. “People are sick of intrusive, loud and obnoxious photographers who shout at people, telling them what to do and where to stand,” explains Marri. “I believe everything has to be an organic part of the event and I try to work in harmony with the people’s state of mind.”
Credited by his peers as being behind the start of the revolution of wedding photojournalism in Pakistan, Kohi insists on putting emphasis on bringing out the emotive element in his photo- graphs. Perhaps this is the reason he prefers working alone. “I work alone because the personal relationship with the subjects creates intimacy,” explains Marri. “I blend into the situation and background to get more interesting pictures and capture moments that might have been lost otherwise.” Known for his quiet, yet humble, demeanour amongst clients and fellow photographers, Kohi believes that by keeping an eye out for spontaneity during events, one can easily capture all the sentiments that go into a wedding; be it in the form of the glow on the bride’s face or the expression of sheer excitement in a child’s eyes, the latter of which Kohi favours the most. “I do like kids running amok,” says Marri. “I love those pictures. They result in unplanned gems, which are the best.”
With a display of such devotion towards the craft of photography and skill in bringing out the best in people, it is rather hard to believe that Kohi Marri, who is a graduate from the Oxford Brookes University as well as an award-winning photojournalist, actually came into this area of photography totally by accident. “I took my camera because I didn’t know what else to do at my cousin’s wedding,” remembers Marri. “My cousin liked the pictures and from there on, it was word of mouth.”
He soon started building a passion for the profession, taking up project after project. “Initially, I thought it would be nice to do wedding pictures as an artistic statement. I became more obsessed with photography over time and surprisingly, people liked what I did,” says Marri. “The next thing I knew, my phone wouldn’t stop ringing.”
Not only has Kohi Marri become a renowned name in wedding photography due to his exceptional skills, he has, in fact, also become extremely well-liked amongst his peers and contemporaries for his generosity and modest nature. “He is really one person whom we owe a lot,” say Sitwat Rizvi and Insiya Syed, the popular female photography duo well-known for wedding photography. “When he took a break in 2009, he passed us a lot of his clients.” A great supporter of tal- ent as and when he sees it, Marri even entrusted the pair with the shooting of his own wedding.
The transition from relative obscurity to widespread appreciation has been anything but easy, with all the success and recognition earned through numerous projects adding a bittersweet flavour to the whole journey. There have been many challenges along the way, one of which, most notably, is the opinions of Kohi’s family regarding his decision. Initially, they did not understand his passion and persisted that he take up a corporate job.
It turned out that the profession Kohi had chosen for himself was very demanding; with numerous projects on his calendar. This meant he has barely had any time for himself, his family and his friends. This is a fact his wife makes a point to remind him constantly. “My wife understandably had complaints because my work never ended,” explains Marri. “It started outside with shoots and even continued at home. Social life was dead and is now even worse.” However, priorities changed drastically once Kohi became a father, causing him to scale back and take limited projects during a specific time.
With so many wedding photojournalists making their appearance on the Pakistani wedding scene, a profession which Kohi Marri pioneered, it does not take an expert’s eye to see that the trend is showing no signs of slowing down. For upcoming photographers hoping to make it big in the wedding field, Kohi insists that they stick to the basics. “I personally don’t pay attention to trends. I focus on keeping my work contemporary and relevant.”