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In this talk, Indian photographer Amit Mehra will present a series of social documentary photographs of Kashmir. This body of work examines the relationship between the natural landscape, the built environment, animals and the people of Kashmir. Mehra’s approach to making this series has been to maintain a committed engagement with the region for over half a decade while retaining the autonomous perspective of an outsider.
The region of Kashmir lies between China, India, and Pakistan, and it has been part of a protracted territorial dispute between Pakistan and India ever since the partition of the two countries in the 1940s. Mehra’s photographs tell stories of the persistence of the people of Kashmir in the face of the turmoil associated with this conflict.
He says: ‘this is a very political body of work. But don’t ask me about azaadi. I’m talking about human emotions, not political agendas.' Azaadi roughly translates as freedom to the Kashmiri Muslim separatist movement. Mehra’s work acknowledges this context of political conflict but focuses on presenting the heroism of daily life.
Mehra’s photographs demonstrate that there is more to this region than simply beauty and conflict. They see beyond the contrast between pictorialism and journalism that has conventionally represented Kashmir in images. That is, beyond a particular type of pictorial beauty, for instance crystal lakes and snow-capped mountains, and beyond images of violence, which circulate whenever conflict re-erupts. The aesthetic characteristic of Mehra’s view is based neither in a disinterested delight in nature nor the sanguine affectivity of violence. Mehra’s aesthetic is founded in how he makes sense of his view in relation to another’s fight.
Idiocentric compositional gestures accentuate Mehra’s subjective point of view in these photographs. Subtle effects of scale and form along with unexpected colours can actually have a type of political impact when they serve as reminder that photographs always mediate situations.
About Amit Mehra
Amit Mehra (b. 1967) a leading Indian photographer, has been photographing for twenty five years. In addition to editorial and advertising work, Amit Mehra has specialized in architectural photography. In 2003 came the landmark opportunity to photograph Rashtrapati Bhawan for the book, Dome Over India. Recipient of the award, Best Photographer of the Year – Asia in 2009 by the Sagamihara Museum, Japan for his book, India, A Timeless Celebration, Mehra has time and again demonstrated the ease with which he traverses different genres of photography.
Photographs from this series are part of the collection of the Gabbaron Foundation, Spain and the Sagamihara Museum in Japan. Amit’s photographs have been widely exhibited in New York, London, Tokyo, Madrid, Melbourne, Dhaka, Delhi and Mumbai in solo shows. His most recent book, ‘Kashmir’ by Penguin Books, has been highly acclaimed for its stark and deeply personal take on the region. He recently published of the book, “Roznaama” which is the first photo book of India shot on iPhone. Amit Mehra is currently working on his next book project, Sufis: Messengers of Peace and also making a documentary film “Twilight of my city” based on the tales of old Delhi.