Thursday, May 31, 2018

Artist of the day, May 31 (India week): Altaf Qadri, Kashmiri-Indian photojournalist

Altaf Qadri is a Kashmiri-Indian photojournalist.

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Altaf Qadri was born in Srinagar, Kashmir and studied science at Kashmir University. He began his working life as a computer engineer, before taking up photography as a profession. Qadri grew up amid mass uprisings against Indian rule and witnessed many important events and incidents as a teenager. He was later sent to New Delhi, where his sister lived. When a friend gave him a camera, Qadri began to shoot and soon realized that the camera could become a witness along with him.

He returned after several months of self-exile and began his first assignment as a freelancer. In 2001, Qadri began to work at a local newspaper as a staff photographer. In 2003, he joined the European Pressphoto Agency, for which he provided extensive coverage of the conflict in Kashmir, until May 2008. In September of that year he joined The Associated Press and is still with AP and based in Amritsar, India. Qadri has covered news stories in Afghanistan, Nepal, Cambodia, Saudi Arabia and numerous provinces of India. His photographs and stories have appeared in newspapers and news magazines around the globe, including National Geographic, Time, Newsweek, The Guardian, The New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Washington Post and The Times.

He has received numerous awards and honors and his work has been exhibited in, among other places, Los Angeles, Washington DC, San Francisco, New York, Cambodia, Beijing, Paris, New Delhi and Mumbai.

The New York Times has described him as "prolific and perceptive". He is based out of New Delhi.

© 2018. All images are copyrighted © by Altaf Qadri/The Associated Press. The use of any image from this site is prohibited unless prior written permission is obtained.

Mr Altaf Qadri

  A 2005 UN report estimated the total number of opium and heroin users to almost 230,000, (UNODC 2005). These figures are considered to be greatly conservative, as data collection in Afghanistan is arduous and there is a strong stigma associated to drug use, preventing users from being acknowledged and helped. Together with drug use, injection related diseases are on the rise in Afghanistan.

For Afghan people violence, death and destruction have become a part of life. Damaged buildings, bunkers and soldiers with sophisticated weapons have become the part of landscape. Since the invasion of Afghanistan by allied forces in 2001, the country’s destiny has in many ways not been its own. It is presided over by a government that is largely seen as a puppet to the US, and its main internal security operations, national defense capabilities and economic recovery rely almost entirely on a country that lies far away both geographically and culturally.

Holi is a Hindu spring festival celebrated in the Indian subcontinent, also known as the "festival of colors". The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter, and for many a festive day to meet others, play and laugh. It is also celebrated as a thanksgiving for a good harvest. 

Kashmir: A fertile valley which once was called Paradise on earth, is split between India and Pakistan but is claimed in full by both. Tens of thousands of people have died in a revolt against Indian rule in the state since 1989 and has become a dangerous place to live, its harvest merely razor wire and mines. Today after 17 years, while Pro-India leaders are busy discussing trades, borders, Confidence Building Measures, Round Table Conferences, the Kashmiri people continue to face the arrogance, humiliation, injustice, torture, at the hands of an unjustified Indian Army presence. Kashmiris, in their own country, have been literally facing obituaries. Only the characters and places change, the stories are always the same, full of misery and tears in every Kashmiri family, caused by the ongoing conflict.  

Portraits of India's landless, poor farmers and the tribal community members during different protests at Jantar Mantar, an area near the Indian parliament where citizens from across the country assemble for protests, in New Delhi, India.

Every morning children from nearby slum arrive in small groups, usually barefoot, carrying mats, brooms and start cleaning a portion of a land under a metro rail bridge, which would be their school for the rest of the forenoon. Rajesh Kumar Sharma, an Indian man along with his friend has founded a free school for underprivileged children under a metro bridge a year ago. He teaches at least 45 children every day. Sharma, a 40-year-old father of three from Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, was forced to drop out of college in his third year due to financial difficulties. He didn't want other children to face the same difficulties he had so he decided to start the free school. He persuaded local laborers and farmers to allow their children to attend his school instead of working to add to the family income. Even though millions of dollars are used to fund educating poor children in India however it doesn't reach them because of corruption and arduous administrative procedures.

The school received an overwhelming support after the photo feature was published in November 2012. Philanthropists from far and wide helped the school children with new sweaters, shoes, socks, school bags, new flooring and clean bottled drinking water.

She Sought Good Life in New Delhi, But Found Trash
In July 2013, Marjina stepped off a train in New Delhi with her two children, hoping to find a better life after her husband abandoned them without so much as a goodbye.

She thought leaving her home in West Bengal to find work in the Indian capital would give her children a chance at a better life. But the only job she could find was as a "rag picker" — picking through other people's garbage to find salvageable bits to resell or recycle.

It is filthy, dangerous work, performed by millions of people across India. Rag picking is effectively the primary recycling system in India. But the work is by no means environmentally friendly, and very far from being secure. While the rag pickers offer invaluable services to the city, they have few rights. Every day, they are exposed to deadly poisons.

Marjina, and her children — daughter Murshida, 12, and 7-year-old son Shahid-ul — spent their days at a landfill in Gazipur, on the outskirts of New Delhi. The next morning they would sit outside their single-room shanty and sort the trash into metal, plastic and paper. The children counted themselves lucky if they found a discarded toy or plastic jewelry to play with. The family earned just $26 per month. Rent was $9.

The work took a toll on the family's health. Marjina's children were constantly sick. Her daughter contracted dengue fever and had to be hospitalized.

After months of poverty, illness and shame, Marjina and her children returned to that train station in New Delhi on Nov. 18, headed back to an uncertain future in West Bengal.