Ali Khurshid

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SHAKIL ADIL FOR TIME

Ali Khurshid takes a photograph at Clifton beach in Karachi, Pakistan, on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2006.

There aren't that many digital cameras floating around Karachi, Pakistan. Or computers, for that matter. Ali Khurshid started taking pictures with a disposable Kodak his parents gave him when he was 8. Since then he has graduated to fancy digital gear, but he has hung on to his low-tech attitude. "I love how the best pictures are usually taken with Holgas and other toy cameras," he says. "It just confirms my belief that the eye is supreme in taking a brilliant photo. The camera is secondary."

Khurshid, now 22, is an artist in a country that's known mostly, in the West at least, for its politics. He takes pictures "to make sure Pakistan's real beauty was put through," he says. "Not just the Pakistan that is shown in the media, always the center of attention for all the wrong reasons." Fortunately for Khurshid, he lives at a time when a solo shutterbug can have the same reach as a staff photographer at the New York Times.

Last year Khurshid began uploading his pictures to Flickr, a website where anyone can post his photos, view another's and swap comments and critiques. In all, there are more than 320 million photos on Flickr right now, about 200 of which are Khurshid's. He's a shy, polite man, but Khurshid is more than willing to wax romantic about the unifying, globalizing greatness of the Flickr community. "I love the world coming together in one place and just sharing all that's in it," he says. "I feel like I get to see the world like it really, truly is. Not by stereotyping a people or a country."

Even more than blogs or video-sharing sites, Flickr has the power to forge international bonds because it works in an entirely nonverbal medium. In fact, it works almost too well. Lavannya Goradia, a heavy Flickr user in Bangalore, India, finds it to be a bit of a lovefest. "I suppose it's a need to pat each other's backs, but that will always happen on a public forum," she says with a sigh. "I am still waiting for a day when I will get constructive criticism from someone here." As for Khurshid, he judges a picture's quality by its use of light and its spontaneity—"by the fact that one moment later it would have all gone," he says. "If someone can turn the ordinary into a dream, that person to me is a genius."

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—Reported by Jeremy Caplan and Kathleen Kingsbury/New York, Susan Jakes/Beijing, Jeffrey Ressner/Los Angeles, Grant Rosenberg/Paris and Bryan Walsh/Seoul