Affectionately known as Chacha in the journalist community, F. E. Choudhry is credited to have introduced innovative features to photojournalism, such as cricket action photography, pictorial and artistic studies of birds and animals, photographs of natural and cultural scenes, along with a host of others which have become standard items of photojournalism today.
He was Pakistan’s first serious, full-time press photographer who worked freelance until he was snapped up by Mian Iftikharuddin soon after The Pakistan Times began publishing in 1947.
Chacha, proud father of the 1965 war hero Cecil Choudhry, stayed with the newspaper almost until its closure, through good times and bad, working in his own inimitable style and taking pictures, many of which have come to form the pictorial history of Pakistan.
He was born on March 15, 1909 to a Christian Rajput family in Sahrnpur, India. According to Khalid Butt, writing in The Nation, he was named Faustin Elmer by his parents. His family moved to Jhelum, when Fazal Elahi was a young boy and he had his early education at Mission High School Dalwal, Jhelum and later graduated from F.C. College, Lahore.
Photography was his first love, which he picked up as a hobby. In those days photography was a cumbersome affair. In his later years, Chacha started working as a freelance photographer while serving as a science teacher at St Anthony’s High School, Lahore in 1934.
His first news photography was published in the Civil and Military Gazette, Lahore in 1935. He then went on to freelance for Illustrated Weekly of India, Bombay and other papers.
Chacha joined The Pakistan Times as a staff reporter in 1949 and remained associated with it until his retirement in 1973. He has worked with all leading editors among them Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Mazhar Ali Khan, and K. M. Asaf.
For his long standing services, F. E. Choudhry was awarded Tamgh-i-Khidmat in 1970, Pride of Performance in 1987 and Tehrik-i-Pakistan Gold Medal in 1992.
In 2002 Khalid Hasan, on the photographer’s 93rd birthday wrote: “In a country where everything seems to change for the worst, Chacha remains one of the few remaining signs that perhaps not everything has gone down the tubes. Chacha, who has been decorated more than once by different governments for his outstanding contribution to photo journalism, does not need a title, but were one to be found for him, surely it could only be Baba-i-Press Photography.”
F.E. Choudhry died on his 104th birthday in Lahore on March 15, 2013.
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