10.12.05, Lahore

After a rather bewildering beginning, we went to see some billboard painters whose work was within the film district which was full of amazing 1930s/’40s style buildings, like the Akal Mansions, built or at least dated in 1945.

Plate 27
  • Billboard Painter's Location
Plate 28
  • Billboard Painter's Entrance
Plate 29
  • Muhammed Ajmal: Billboard Painter

The cinema trend in Britain seemed to be mirrored in Pakistan. The bill board painting can be seen within a background of change. Change through the type of film, which is coming less from Pakistan and more from Bollywood and America. Also with changes in technology with Photoshop being used more frequently, which is basically the same principle as the painters use already, only with a computer.

Plate 30
  • Rear of the billboard structure shows steel sheets which are re-used again and again
Plate 31
  • Many Billboard Paintings have extensions to the top or side emphasising action
Plate 32
  • The billboards are painted in this covered area with many assistants

The general principle of bill board painting seems to be that film distributors and cinema owners give the artists images of film stills, explaining the film, and the artists select and compose the bill boards accordingly, emphasising usually the female figures (which are often fairly unclothed) while male figures had more emphasis on expression and the face (Farida Batul explained this in a lecture on Thursday). This is changing though as men become more aligned to beauty through the influence of other films. Also, with new Photoshop work, there seems to be more emphasis on the central couple.

Plate 33
  • Rasheed Rana has collaborated with Billboard Painters to make contempoorary art works
Plate 34
  • The Billboard Paintings can be dramatic to emphasise elements within the film
Plate 35
  • This shows the scale

Muhammad Ajmal went from Karachi to Lahore working for other people, until the ‘90s when he began his own business. He had worked with Rashid Rana and other artists but this has not changed his approach. The situation in the bill boarders’ yard was akin to that of a spray shop in a garage. There were lots of testing paints on walls and a rickety roof over the top.

Plate 36
  • The Billboard is constructed from smaller panels
Plate 37
  • Billboard Painting - is not only used for cinema, seen here is an image used for Political Candidates
Plate 38
  • Detail of a Billboard Painting in situ

In fact the men with Muhammad told Qasim (Shaheen) that they often worked in very challenging conditions because the roof leaked. Though Muhammad is still working and has many apprentices himself, he suspected that the business would fade, even though initially, it had a boost from the multi-national corporations who used bill board painters to paint huge adverts. His business card reveals the range of work that he does.  .