Through the life of a photographer in Kashmir – Junaid Bhat

“I don’t trust words. I trust pictures.” — Gilles Peress

Junaid Bhat
Junaid Bhat

Interviewed By Saraf Ali:

It’s easy to find the things wrong with serious photojournalism today or the controversies, rumours and reasons it’s dying in the valley like Kashmir.
In areas of conflict, photographers confront very specific rules established by Law enforcement agencies, limiting the type of images that can be taken, along with cultural conventions that place certain subjects out-of-bounds.
Photojournalism is a particular form of journalism (the collecting, editing, and presenting of news material for publication or broadcast) that employs images in order to tell a news story. It is now usually understood to refer only to still images, but in some cases the term also refers to video used in broadcast journalism. Like a writer, a photojournalist is a reporter, but he or she must often make decisions instantly and carry photographic equipment, often while exposed to significant obstacles (e.g., physical danger, weather, crowds, physical access).

If you are in any of the multimedia niche, say photojournalism, then you have to have at least a camera that as your whole sole companion. But what if one has no clue about the device but end up to be a professional photojournalist?

Meet Junaid Bhat, a young 25-year-old Kashmiri photojournalist. His journey was not at all susceptible, he strove a lot and face various barriers but being tough he agreed to go on with his chores. Being clueless about the camera he first saw the equipment in the year 2013, after which he decided on it as his profession and started capturing pictures from his android mobile because he realized that people never capture the incidents that took place on their side, but only of Srinagar. By compelling his own endeavours he sent emails to various media houses and got a break in Greater Kashmir, the largest circulated regional English everyday newspaper. His photographs there and then have been widely published in leading newspapers, magazines and internet sites around the world like BBC, Al-Jazeera, The wire to name a few.
After a series of questions being asked, to: So, what expectedly first should be asked is: how did the journey start?, he answered:

Since I have been seeing a lot here up in Kashmir that is still unexplained and unseen from ground zero , I became more interested in photojournalism and documentary photography. After visiting my nearby locations taking pictures there as a form of practice-routine, I realized that getting great photographs that are worthy of a photojournalism series is more difficult than I thought. While looking at the niche of Photojournalism, there is such a disparity between the actual level of quality and mine, that I realized I still have a lot to learn.

One day, I was going through a daily local newspaper and I came across many photographs of protests, clashes published . I had been clicking photos from past 3 years but my photos were not published yet and then I decided to mail my photos to a local daily newspaper and on the next day I saw my photos published on the newspaper .At the first, I didn’t believe that it was my name. I thought this might be a person with the same name “JUNAID BHAT”. So, I decided to mail more photos to a different newspaper, Greater Kashmir, which is considered to be Kashmir’s largest circulated local English daily newspaper. It was like a dream come true when I saw myself getting featured in Greater Kashmir . I continued to shoot and kept sending the photos to different news agencies and they kept posting my photos but none of them paid me.

When further asked, Why did you choose multimedia when you had a social media support?
Social Media isn’t really great for finding Photojournalism work. Most of the photojournalists aren’t really popular, because living in a conflicted area most of the works don’t meet the policies of what social media doesn’t want us to post and with tenth of thousands of followers, social media is not quite supportive, but are more focused on photography than building up their social media presence, answered Junaid.

Junaid sets an inspiration for those hundreds and thousands of Kashmiris who want to have their hands on fine photography. Those thousands of Kashmiris who have fallen in love with art and want to spread the sacredness of love towards photography. Those thousands of Kashmiris who have achieved in their lives and want to inspire more people by those achievements.

Maybe the readers here still believe in the controversies exaggerated in the media about the journalist community, Junaid being chief of them. Even I couldn’t believe this and I had to google and after getting a proof of the same, I feel regret over the pity things that are being over exaggerated in the media and the people like Junaid that could inspire a good part of population remains unknown and unleashed
Despite of his simple manner of answering , he took a long breath, saying : See photography to me is also an artform but in a different manner, when you’re out of words and for some reasons your words become unclear, you’ve to eventually focus on the photographs. It’s a story I fail to put into words and narrate. It’s an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting. I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them, he added.

It was since August , when centre nullified the special status of Jammu and Kashmir . Junaid is amongst the few photojournalists who have been reporting the news and covering the protests.
“ I was threatened not to cover the protests but despite of this I have reported fearlessly . I have to go out of the Kashmir just to send my work to international agencies since the blanket ban on communication”, says Junaid.
“It is very difficult to report here in this conflicted nation of ours but I promise I will continue to report the truth fearlessly for my people and my land”, he with a smile on his face, added.

Image Source:

Disclaimer: The views, suggestions and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the interviewer. None of our journalist/writer were involved in the writing and production of this article.

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