Looking at Kashmir through a camera lens

New Delhi: Adding to the plethora of existing literature documenting the turmoils of Kashmir that have grabbed headlines time and again, is a new book that offers a visual narrative of the disturbances in the region over a span of two decades, through the eyes of nine photographers. 

Titled ‘Witness’, the coffee-table book featuring 200 photographs is a comprehensive visual document telling the ‘Kashmir story’ between 1986-2016.

“This book is neither a photo essay nor a set of pictures from nine different photographers. To me, it is a single story witnessed by different people with different backgrounds at different points in time,” says Shaukat Nanda, one of the contributors to the book. 

The book which was recently launched here, has been edited by Kashmiri documentary filmmaker Sanjay Kak, who said the “photo-book is primarily a timeline of emotions or feelings than a timeline of history”. 

“1986-2016 is an important period for the entire region, and not just Kashmir. My request is that you must not see this as a book giving you a quick history lesson. 

“It is not meant to be a timeline of history. Rather it is a timeline of emotions which have been interpreted by the photographers over these years,” Kak said. 

Subsuming a whole band width of age, inclinations, desires, experience and motivations, the contributing photographers range from rookies like nineteen-year-old Azan Shah to doyens of ‘Kashmir photography’ like Meraj-ud-din. 

One of the major challenges behind the making of the book was to restore “the old negatives and hard-disks” that got washed away in the devastating flood of 2014. 

“Looking at those negatives, I thought in my hands lies the documented history which was on the verge of getting lost. 

“The negatives were rotten. I put those photographs through the scanner, and then slowly everyday pictures started coming on the screen,” Kaushik Ramaswamy, who restored the negatives, said. 

The only non-Kashmiri photographer in the project Sumit Dayal said the importance of the book lies not just in the photographs but also in the stories behind the snapshots. 

“This is one photo book we all should read, and read very carefully. What you will see in this book with the photos are conversations that have happened for over a year and a half that we spent together during the making of the book,” he said.

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