This photo essay by Masrat Zahra is the first in a series of photo essays on Gender, Militarization and Armed Conflict on the eve of Kashmiri Women's Resistance Day.
“The day of my birth there was a cordon in our neighbourhood, total curfew. They wouldn’t let my father go to the hospital with my mother, so my grandmother had to go. After I was born she whispered the Azaan in my ear, because my father was not around. He saw me after three days.” - Masrat Zahra
The photographs in this essay thrum with the energy of an intimate attachment, and a knowing eye. What is outside the frame, constantly seeps into its insides, so that we already inhabit the city that the pictures chronicle— catching its subjects mid-glance, mid-stride. Three children read a book in a room littered with debris, behind them on a class room mural –a flowerpot, a wild bird, a helicopter; a Shiite Ashura mourner runs full tilt down a shuttered street, as police [not in the frame] try to stop her from marching; a woman accompanies her children to tuition class on a curfew day in a downtown alley; a child stretches his arm to touch his mother in a house full of mourners; an old lady steps out of the Khanqah-e-Maula onto yet another curfewed street.
Masrat Zahra, 23, likes to seek out scene of action and passionate encounters-- “clashes”, “shrines” “ curfew restrictions”, she says. “I like to photograph places and days when things are raw, and close to the surface […] Sometimes photographers like to use black and white to shoot Kashmir, to capture the mood of sadness, suffering – but I see things around me in colour. Black and white create a kind of focus and distance, but the colours are how we experience—if I see blood on the street I want to show the red. I’m not going to use black and white ”. This is the stuff of her downtown neighbourhood of Hawal, Srinagar. Like the photographer and her subjects, we are turned familiar witnesses to what has gone before-- the minutes, hours and years, before the shutter clicked. “The conflict is everywhere—inside and outside, you don’t have to go out looking for it.”