A view of Kashmir

A view of Kashmir

Think Kashmir, and there are two things which come to mind: its breathtaking natural beauty and the over 60 year old insurgency. Imagine the dilemma of a photographer who has to portray the State in its entirety.

And then there are lensmen like Amit Mehra who combine both beautifully and come up with an exhibition like Kashmir. Documenting the region over six years, from 2006-11, he has deftly recorded the condition of the region, the people alienated and unhappy, without showing any security personnel, guns or bloodshed at all.

Amit Mehra has been photographing for over 20 years now. In addition to editorial and advertising work, Amit has specialized in architectural photography. In 2003, he photographed Rashtrapati Bhawan for the book Dome Over India and received the award, Best Photographer of the Year – Asia in 2009 by the Sagamihara Museum, Japan for his book India, A Timeless Celebration.

In 2006, he arrived in Kashmir with the aim of a photo project in mind and realised that he had to make a choice of subject. “For two years at least, I photographed the Army, terrorism and the consequent blood and gore. At one point of time I realised that I am not doing anything different than what other photographers are doing.”

“Then I decided to change the way I was looking at Kashmir and came up with these pictures. These do not record any particular event, but describe the situation which Kashmir has come to after all these years. They can be read like stories themselves.”

There are a noticeable number of pictures of graveyards. Amit explains that, after all these decades of insurgency, every area of Kashmir has a graveyard. There are pictures of people with blank looks – as if they have become numb with torture. There are empty streets and houses deserted by Kashmiri pandits. Houseboats floating in a deathly silent Dal lake wait for customers.     

There are pictures of bazaars, but people seem to be in a frenzy to reach home. There are photographs of mosques – their beautiful architecture, but they seem to echo with silence. Even the animals, a cat in particular, stares at you as if you were an enemy.

It is not as if there are no photographs of beauty or merriment, but all are tinged with sadness. A golden chinar leaf is caught in a barbed wire mesh - put up by the Army. A bunch of plastic flowers lie on the banks of Dal lake.

All these pictures and more are on exhibition at Photoink Gallery, Jhandewalan till January 12.

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