9 Emerging Photographers From Kashmir

I realised that if I wanted to cover anything, I should spend time to understand it and to do that you have to go live the story.
~ Ami Vitale.

Happy World Photography Day.

Photography has emerged as one of the best mediums to tell moving stories, to document the humanitarian crisis, to create art of deep meaning. Kashmir has produced some legendary photojournalists like Showkat Nanda, Altaf Qadri, Mehraj-u-Din, Rafiq Maqbool, Aijaz Rahi and many more.

The World is pumped with photographers, so is Kashmir but some hard-working young boys and girls are making it really good and are producing unique works of photography be it conflict crisis, daily life, documentary photography, fine art photography or portraiture genre of photography.
Here is a list of emerging photojournalists and photographers from Kashmir.

1) Yawar Kabli @yawar_nazir_kabli

Yawar, a resident of Tankipora area of Srinagar is one of the best photojournalists among new crop Kashmir has seen. He has inherited photography from his father, who has retired as Chief Photo officer Information Department J&K.
Yawar’s career started way back in 2001 when he started working as Camera boy in Doordarshan, the state television.

In the year 2005, he started working as a stringer for Reuters for a time period of two years when he finally joined Getty Images in 2007, where he currently works.
Though Yawar humbly calls himself a microorganism in the vast universe of Photojournalism, he is widely published in national and international media houses. His pictures have been published in Time, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sports Illustrated, Times of India, Hindustan Times and many more.
About working in Kashmir, Yawar says, “it is a walk on the edge of a razor” while calling Kashmir a hell in paradise.

Yawar has been detained, beaten, harassed by state forces many times and has received threatening calls and warnings from many.

While Yawar continues to do his job of covering the conflict in Kashmir, being a witness to pain & agony, death & life has severely affected his mental health. “I went into depression,” he says about working in a conflict zone.

2) Kamran Yousuf @kamran_yousf

A boy hanging behind a police van during the clashes in the pulwama main Town.

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This media grad from Pulwama district of South Kashmir has emerged as one of the best wire photojournalists from the new crop.

He has been doing photography for last five years now and is currently working with leading local daily Greater Kashmir.

Doing photography and telling stories from South Kashmir which is new hotbed of resistance after the martyrdom of HM commander is a herculean job. Kamran says “when I leave in morning for doing my professional duties, I am not sure if I will return home safe in evening, such is the unpredictability of place where he works. One never knows what will happen next.
About working in the conflict zone, Kamran says “it is a very tough job. I have been abused and beaten many times by SOG and CRPF personnel”. Locals have labelled him agent working for the police and blamed him for arrests of many boys.

Masked protesters carrying a pro-freedom banner……

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Recently on the eve of the first anniversary of martyrdom of Burhan, he trekked 11 km along a stream from his home to reach graveyard where Burhan lies buried and he says, “when I opened my camera bag and took camera out to takes pictures, I was abused by CRPF and SOG personnel who were guarding the entrance to graveyard. They even threatened me”.

Kamran has been covering most of the funerals of rebels martyred in South Kashmir where other rebels show up. It is very dangerous and risky job. “You never know what will happen at a gathering where a rebel lies dead, other rebels show up and people are so emotional”. Covering such a gathering is very tough. “I reluctantly take pictures keeping my safety as the priority” he adds.

Despite all this hostility in the area and hardships, Kamran continues to tell stories of death, life, occupation and resistance from South Kashmir.

3) Sharafat Ali @ibnali10

Sharafat Ali, a resident of the Downtown area of Srinagar has emerged as a young documentary photographer.
It all started for him in the year 2013 when he got inclined towards photography and began shooting in streets and people (portraits).
Sharafat is currently pursuing Visual Documentary Photography at Aks School of Photography and works as a freelancer.

I believe that I am very lucky to have a very close and faithful friend like you. From you, I have learned the importance of perseverance. P.s @adilhussainpj is an internationally published photojournalist based in Indian controlled kashmir. He specialises in covering conflict and social issues throughout Kashmir. His work has been published in #Guardian, #SundayTimes, #Lemonde #Telegraph. He recently was nominated among the best top 40 smartphone photojournalists of the world in Milan Italy, where his work was also displayed. #TheCreativeHeads #1415mobilephotographers #outofthephone #INDIAPICTURES #indiaclicks #instagram #akasimagazine #roozdaily #MyTelegraph #streetphotographyindia #life_is_street #hikaricreative #featureshoot #friendsinperson #friendsinbnw #indiaphotoproject #creativeimagemagazine #streetphotographyindia #indiaphotostory #indianphotography #etribune #photographers_of_india #indianphotography #storiesofindia #lenspersia #Kashmir #_soi #desi_diaries

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For Sharafat, photography is a form of art, all about emotions and expressions of a moment. He loves to shoot Black’n White. ” Black and White is the only way to depict a story in full grace” he explains why he loves shooting in Black and White.
In a place like Kashmir which is conflict-riddled, ‘Black’n White represents pain, sorrow and grief which people go through all time’ he adds.

Sharafat uses his mobile very well and has produced some strong works with the mobile camera, which shows one does not need a high-end gear to tell a story.

Sharafat believes in the creation of photo works with a deeper meaning. “I want to document stories for eternity & make them archival too for generations to come”.
Sharafat’s work and philosophy of photography have been hugely influenced likes of Showkat Nanda, Eugene Smith, Abbas Attar, Andy Spyra, Eugene Richards, Paulo Pellegrin.
“Showkat Nanda has been my first inspiration and it is my good luck to be mentored by him,” says Sharafat.
“Nothing comes easy. There will be hardships and it is not unique to Kashmir. But being dedicated, devoted to the cause of storytelling, the boat sails with good pace and rhythm” he says talking about working in Kashmir.
“There are thousands of stories which need to be told but until one goes in-depth, one cannot tell a story which world will pay heed to”.

4) Eeshan Peer @eeshanpeer

Eeshan, a boy in his early twenties, is emerging as one of the hard-working lensmen from Sopore area of North Kashmir district Baramulla.
A student of BA Journalism at CT group of Colleges Jhalandar has been doing photography for some good time now. Starting with a digital camera in his Class 8th, he went on to do news photography in Class 11th.

wounded in pellet firing by security forces on Eid-ul-Azha in Sopore some 55 kilometers from Srinagar the summer capital of Indian controlled Kashmir, 19-year-old Imtiyaz Ahmad Sofi, an auto mechanic by profession until he was blinded, has gone through three major surgeries into one eye at SMHS Hospital in Srinagar but no sign of regaining any percentage of vision. #protest #killing #clashes #stone #pelting #sopore #night_protest #pellets #teargas #freekashmir #photoofheday #streetphotography #photojournalism #conflictzone #conflict_photography #asia #AJEinpictures #kashmir #azadi #photography #reportagespotlight #seizethemomenta #eeshanpeerphotography @gettyreportage @gettyimages @aljazeera @bostonglobe

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Eeshan works with Varmul Post, a weekly published from Baramulla. His pictures have been published in all most all leading dailies. Some of his pictures have been published in Al-Jazeera, Getty Images and many other international publications.
Coming from the hotbed of resistance, Eeshan says, “it is very tough to work in a place like Kashmir”. You are at receiving end from both sides. Earlier this year, Eeshan was beaten up by police. He recalls “I got beaten up by a SHO and as result of this beating my left leg is fractured”. I have received pellets too, he adds. Despite all this, Eeshan continues to tell stories from North Kashmir.

5) Hilal Ahmad @hilalahmmad

Hilal Ahmad, a resident of Srinagar has emerged as one of the best fine art photographers in Kashmir in last few years.
Hilal’s journey to become a fine art photography has been very tough, struggles. “I was fascinated by beauty and composure of nature, I would go to week long treks and there I would take pictures using my mobile”. Taking pictures using mobile filled him with love for photography and he got himself a compact Canon camera and started taking pictures of everything that came in his eye, landscapes, people, streets etc.

He started participating in exhibitions and in one such exhibition, his exhibited work was sold out. “I was overwhelmed not because I got money but people loved my work”. Many persons approached him for collaboration. “Sajad Kralyari who had started a travel magazine, approached me to work for him”. Since Hilal had not a DSLR camera then, “I pooled some money, took a bank loan and finally got a mid-level DSLR camera” he adds.
Social media had helped Hilal a lot. He conversed with many professionals from different countries, notably got inspired by Pakistani photographer Aatif Saeed, who has been listed as World’s Best landscape photographer in 2016.

Hilal’s work has been published in various online magazines and his work has been exhibited in Malaysian Islamic museum.

Hilal says, “It is my dream to be a Wildlife photographer, but the lack of financial resources has stopped me from accomplishing my dream”. For now, he wants to set up a studio of his own.
Hilal has been producing pictures of dreamy landscapes and soothing rural culture. “Hypernationalist Indian media has woven a net of propaganda around Kashmir and its people, I am trying to show the real Kashmir through my pictures which are painted in bad colours by media. I would never work for somebody or do some assignment for merely some bucks if it hurts my conscience or tries to portray Kashmir in bad light”, he adds.

Despite all the struggles, Hilal has been working relentlessly and produces world-class pictures.

6) Waleed Shabir @waleed_shabir

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A young boy from the downtown area of Srinagar is another young photographer who is emerging as one of the best from the new crop of photographers. Waleed says he did not choose photography but it choose him. Back in winters of the year 2012, Waleed once uploaded a photograph of snow on social networking site Facebook. His cousin who is a photographer asked him out for a photo walk next day. “There is no looking back and I am still walking but now I am walking alone (referring to his style of photography).

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Waleed has tried every genre of photography since then and says he could have done any genre with great results but portraiture and conceptual genres of photography have touched his soul. The portraits he makes are so moving that once feels like talking to the subject in the frame. “You will always find me deep in their eyes,” he says about the effort and soul search he puts in making of his frames.
Waleed says has been inspired by God’s wisdom and gets his motivational dose from an imaginative figure whom he calls ‘She’. He says, “Pain, Faith and She” makes him fall in love with his work and motivates him to do more.

Being a Kashmiri has its own perks and Waleed says “it kills him, the strikes, curfews, internet ban all are very hard to go through. But I love struggles”. They make me better, he adds.
He loves and has been much inspired by work of French portrait photographer Lee Jeffries.
Waleed has worked very hard brushing his skills to develop his own style now and is working on a new photo project. “It will take time but you will see something very amazing,” he says with pride.
Waleed’s pictures have been published in many magazines like Better Photography magazine, Inspiro India.

Waleed’s photos have been selected in National Geography’s Your Shot. One of his pictures showing his deluge hit room after 2014 floods were selected for a National Geography assignment “Inside Access” on Your Shot and another photo selected in YourShot assignment “Ask a Local”. A picture showing people praying in Hazratbal has been selected in a Daily Dozen on Your Shot.

7) Durdana Bhatt @durdanabhatt

A pellet was shot in his eyes, he can't see now #Jamiamasjid #olcity #Kashmir #2015

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Durdana Bhatt is one of the best female photojournalists in Kashmir in current times. Durdana started photography as a medium of exploration five years ago. To understand the basic ethics of photojournalism and media education, she enrolled in Mass Communication and Media production in Women College (Kashmir University) and at the same time started working as an intern at a local weekly Kashmir Life.

I began this month somewhere between life and death.

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Durdana says, “This gave me an academic and professional platforms, enabling me to learn, understand, and adapt technicalities in photojournalism”.

She has been inspired by works of Henri Carter-Bresson, Malcolm Hutcheson, James Natchway, Fatemeh Behboudi, Masood Gheria and Showkat Nanda.

Durdana likes to do documentary photography, she takes pictures and writes about them. Considering the nature and the historical complexity of the Kashmir, most of her work is in Black and White.
Talking about how she gets inside access to her stories, Durdana says “Sometimes it needs one to be a listner, put down the camera and listen to those grim tales”.

It is a very hard job to be a female photojournalist in Kashmir, “but if one has a strong will, one can get through the hurdles and obstacles” she says about being a photojournalist in Kashmir.
According to Durdana, the political history of Kashmir has not been a very pleasant one. This along with other reasons has been a dead weight that the female photojournalists were and are still carrying but this should do not and must not stop to pursue the individuals to pursue their course of interest. Given the volatile nature of 90’s, it is very hard to imagine why the number of photojournalists is less in Kashmir.
“But things are changing, there are many girls who are working and studying photojournalism” she adds.

8) Masrat Jan @masratjan514

Masrat Zahra, a young girl from Hawal area of Srinagar is new to photojournalism but in very short span of time has emerged one of the best female photojournalists.

She started photography using her mobile phone but seeing her developing interest in photography, she got a DSLR camera as a gift from her brother.

Masrat is pursuing her masters in Convergent Journalism from Central University Kashmir.
Having been moved by Donna Ferrato’s ‘Living with the enemy’ photo story on domestic violence, she draws inspiration from it and follows her favourite photojournalist Showkat Nanda.

“I want to use the medium of photography to help society, I want to highlight the problems. Says Masrat. “Sometimes when the subject is female, I get inside access since females trust females easily” she adds.

Masrat says, “As a Kashmiri, she wanted to pelt stones to register the protest but I cannot so I took photojournalism to register my protest against the injustice and crimes being perpetrated on my people”.

An Indian policeman aims his pellet gun towards the protesters amid clashes between Government security forces and protesters post friday prayers inside the compound of Historic Jamia Masjid of Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian occupied Kashmir. Series#securityforces #igers #reportagespotlight #photojournalism #documentinglife #instaphotooftheday #instagram #akasimagazine #roozdaily #MyTelegraph #documentary #streetphotographyindia #dawn_dot_com #jjstreetphotography #street_life #hikaricreative #featureshoot #friendsinperson #friendsinbnw #indiaphotoproject #creativeimagemagazine #35mmstreetphotography #35mmfilm #streetphotographyindia #indiaphotostory #photographers_of_india #storiesofindia #lenspersia #Kashmir #_soi #one__shot__

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Working in a male dominated profession is not easy for a young girl but she says, “One has to bear struggles to do what one loves to do”.

People and state forces react in awe when they see Masrat along with her colleagues. “I was covering stone pelting clashes in Nowhatta area when someone shouted take her home, she could get hit by a stone”. The reason for all this is because people are not used to seeing female photojournalists as there are not many. “This is just a mindset and I do not pay attention to these comments”.
Masrat has been working as freelancer despite being offered a job by many organisations. “I want to work as an independent journalist, be a visual storyteller and showcase stories which have human interest”.

9) Mirza Ufaq Zehra @ufaq_zehra

Mirza Ufaq Zehra is another girl who has emerged as one of the best female photographers.
Ufaq did her schooling from Presentation Convent and later graduated from Women’s College Nawakadal. She loved photography since school days.

‘I always had a dream to become a journalist and after I did my graduation I joined the Central University of Kashmir to do masters in Convergent Journalism”, says Ufaq.
At University, Ufaq got to learn the basics, technicalities and fines of photography. ‘I am lucky to have parental support. Even at University, teachers supported and guided me through this journey”, she adds.

Ufaq mentions writer Shahnaz Bashir and journalist Shams Irfan helped her a lot in early stages of her photography.

According to Ufaq, “It is very challenging to be a photographer in a patriarchal society and a conflict torn place like Kashmir”.

Ufaq sees photography as a language and wants to tell stories in this language. She has been inspired by Valley’s famous visual storyteller Showkat Nanda.
Ufaq not only does photography, she also conducts workshops about basic and advanced photography. She has conducted two workshops this year only and says she will be conducting more workshops.

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