Islamabad - If you enjoy living hassle-free, definitely you wouldn’t like a digital camera bulging in your pocket, as smartphones can take fantastic snapshots. They are always ready to capture memorable moments. A correlation exists between the growth of smartphones and the shrinking of the camera market, the more the quality of the smartphone camera improves, the more the business of the latter declines.

“The emergence of smartphone has not only shrunk the camera market but it has also endangered the job of professional outdoor/street photographers. Instead of hiring our services, most of the visitors take snapshots with their own mobile phones,” says Muhammad Arshad, an aging photographer who has been earning his livelihood for the last 21 years through photography near Faisal Mosque.

“In 1994, I shifted from Abbottabad to Islamabad and chose photography as a profession. Earlier I earned enough money to meet the expenses of my five-member family. But over the past few years, the work (photography) has declined substantially.”

As the arriving visitors enter the adjacent garden of the mosque, just like other photographers, Muhammad Arshad rushes towards them and offers his services. “Sir/Madam would you like to make photos; I will capture the whole structure of Faisal Mosque in your background,” he says while showing them sample of his work. He tries his best to convince the visitors but these day most of them apt taking pictures with their won smartphones.

Besides sample albums, almost all the cameramen hold placards in their hands inscribed with “Make urgent photos (only in five minutes); camera rolls and batteries (for camera) are available. Cameras (analogue) are also available on rent.” The cameramen usually wear (Compaq) cameras over their neck and shoulder with the help of straps.

For the last 30 years, the digital revolution displaced different mid-skill jobs. The way typists, ticket agents and bank tellers etc. lost their jobs, now most of the outdoor professional photographers think that smartphone revolution is all set to snatch their jobs.

Irfan Mufti, who originally hails from Karachi, is another photographer in Faisal Mosque. While seeing the decline of his profession, he is doing two jobs at the moment. “With more than 60% reduction in our client rate, I am doing second job to make both ends meet,” he said without disclosing the nature of his second job. According to him, the use of smartphone is increasing day by day and “even illiterate people use smartphone for snapshots.”

Contrary to picturing with smartphone, these photographers provide photos in hot form but instead of printing the pictures, people use electronic copies of their photos especially to share snapshots on social media. “People take pictures with smartphones and, with the help of internet, post their photos to Facebook and other social networking sites,” said Hussain Ali, one of the 35 photographers working in Faisal Mosque area. “Even the excessive use of smartphone and the usage of electronic copies of photos compelled many investors to shut their photo labs.”

Raja Sahib comes to Faisal Mosque from Chatta Bakhtawar. He started photography in 1988; one of his sons is also associated with this field. “I can say that 1990s was peak time for our business. Apart from making instant pictures, we also rented out our cameras to the visitors. Under the current scenario hardly a photographer could survive with this job.”

According to Raja, currently they charge Rs 40 for a normal photograph; initially the rate was Rs 20. “Despite the current inflation, our rates are reasonable but the issue is not the charges, actually people don’t need our services.”

Nisar Ahmed from Haripur is one of the young photographers working here. As senior photographers talk about the decline of their business, he seems worried about his own future. “Due to decline, my Ustad (teacher) has quit photography and now runs a gift shop; I would like to do some other work but I don’t have options.”

Hussain Bhai runs a minilab, consisting of editing and printing tools, inside a small car, always parked near Faisal Masjid. All the photographers, in the areas, are dependent on his lab. Hussain Bhai originally belongs to Kohistan, Swat; for the last four years he has been associated with this profession. “Earlier each photographer captured around 100 pictures a day; now on average they shoot around 40 photos,” he said. “For the last two years photography has seen dramatic decline; and according to my opinion the main reason is smartphone.”