Photography in Kashmir has emerged as a powerful witness to its troubled present. Rooted in photojournalism, but escaping its limits when possible, a new generation of photographers has illuminated Kashmiri life in a period of upheaval that has lasted over three decades. Their work has demonstrated the radical part that can be played by photographs in subverting the established views of Kashmir – of a beautiful landscape sans people; as an innocent paradise; or more recently, of a paradise beset by mindless violence.
Witness is a curated book project that brings together images by nine photographers from Kashmir: Meraj Uddin, Javeed Shah, Dar Yasin, Javed Dar, Altaf Qadri, Sumit Dayal, Showkat Nanda, Syed Shahriyar and Azaan Shah. The text emerged from their conversations with documentary filmmaker Sanjay Kak, and brings out the varied relationships that each contributor has to photography and to Kashmir, in the process raising questions about the place of artistic practice in zones of conflict.
In 2017 Witness featured in the New York Times Magazine's year-end list of Best Photo Books of the year, curated by Teju Cole:
“There is a lot of grace in this compendium of photojournalism about Kashmir, and there is much despair as well. This book about the region, the product of nine photojournalists working over three decades, merits the title “Witness.” The photographers are not outsiders visiting on assignment. They are all Kashmiri—from Meraj Ud Din (born in 1959) to Azaan Shah (born in 1997)—and the impact of their familiarity with and emotional commitment to the place shows. Put together by the New Delhi-based Yaarbal Press, the book is an exceedingly beautiful art object, despite its grim contents.”
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