When you think of photography and Kashmir, you think of a sylvan valley and the sun setting over the Dal Lake. But budding photographers from the valley are finding more inspiration in the diverse culture around them, women’s issues and conflict than the usual cliched images.
Using social media tools like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, the valley’s youth is up to showcase Kashmir in a new picture.
Shams Ul Haq Qari is a wildlife photography enthusiast from Srinagar. Having been published on international platforms, Qari feels there is much more in Kashmir apart from its landscape that needs to be captured.
“There is a need to extensively cover the wildlife of Kashmir. Nothing has been done by photographers when it comes to Kashmir’s wildlife,” Qari told IANS.
“A photographer needs to put efforts in the right direction and a wildlife photographer based in Kashmir can undoubtedly become a known wildlife photographer globally.”
A media student from Kashmir University, Qari’s work has been published in The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Guardian and The New York Post and by Getty Images.
“Most photographers do nothing but picturesque stuff. My focus is to present the wildlife of Kashmir,” the 22-year-old says.
Twenty-year-old Durdana Bhat is one of the countable number of female photographers from Kashmir.
The Valley’s landscape does not interest her more than the women of Kashmir do. On her Instagram feed she posts the portraits of old men and women who are affected by a quarter century of an Islamist militancy that erupted in 1989 and which the government says has claimed some 45,000 lives. Rights groups and NGOs put the figure at 100,000.
Breaking the stereotype, Bhat travels miles to capture the old faces. “I feel the need to portray Kashmir’s old faces. Their faces say a lot. They are witness to the Kashmir history,” Bhat says.
Currently working for a weekly local magazine in Srinagar, Bhat is also a media student from Kashmir University.
“I opted for journalism so that I align my ideas of bringing up the issues faced by women in pictures.”
Bhat’s work has been showcased in an exhibition held at Kashmir University. She has done women-based photo essays for different web portals.
She has invested her work in bringing out stories from unreported corridors. “Words and pictures are very powerful tool together. Pictures speak more than words and that’s why I choose to be a photojournalist.”
Young photographers are finding different areas to bring out a different picture of the trouble-torn-paradise.
Faisal Khan, a freelance photojournalist, captures the pain and distress due to the conflict.
“My aim is to represent the conflict in Kashmir. My pictures show the pain and turmoil Kashmiris are going through,” Khan says.
Having been published by Time Magazine, Al-Jazeera, The Guardian and many international and national fora, Khan is currently freelancing for the Turkey-based news agency Anadolu Agency.
Khan does not restrict his work to Kashmir but aims to capture conflict globally. “I want to represent each and every part where there is conflict. Kashmir is just the beginning.”
So far, the Valley has produced a good number of photojournalists who have earned laurels.
Altaf Qadri, a Kashmiri senior photojournalist with the Associated Press, says there is a lack of guidance and organizational support for young upcoming photographers.
“There are many serious photojournalists, but they need proper guidance which is lacking. Nowadays youngsters get inspired with the use of the internet. But they need full-fledged guidance,” Qadri says.