Symbols of Resistance: A photo essay by Sharafat Ali

Sharafat Ali, 24, is a documentary photographer based in Kashmir. He freelances with various organizations where he contributes photo stories. He is an alumnus at the Aks School of Photography and Visual Journalism. While still at the threshold of his career, Sharafat has won few prestigious honours. He was awarded the eminent Ian Parry Scholarship in 2017 for his work on the ramifications of the conflict on people in Kashmir. He is the first Kashmiri photographer, in fact the only South Asian to be awarded the Ian Parry Scholarship. For the same project, he recently won the first prize in the 72nd College Photographer of the Year competition in the documentary category. Sharafat has also won a nominee award at the 2017 PhotograVphy grant. In the year 2018, he was accepted in the final list of nominees for World Press Photo Joop Swart master classes.

Sharafat calls photography his only true calling. This is his exclusive photo essay for the Wande Magazine.

“The people I capture, I view them as my own. Most of the people I capture I have never met and I don’t know them at all but through my images and stories I live with them,” - Sharafat Ali 

Sharafat Ali’s photographs capture people not as subjects but as characters who inhabit his world – who he meets and interacts with as a young documentary photographer working in Kashmir. “The people I capture, I view them as my own. Most of the people I capture I have never met and I don’t know them at all but through my images and stories I live with them,” he says.

The subjects of this photo essay are Kashmiri women, who embody for Sharafat ‘symbols of resistance.’ Sharafat finds dignity in their lives and his photographs are remarkable for they invoke almost a primal urge in the viewer to want to know more about these women. The photographs are unique as Sharafat finds it difficult to break the ice with these women and admits finding it extremely challenging to go into in-depth conversations with these characters ‘due to uncertainties and unpredictability of this place where I live.’ Sharafat navigates the world of these women through a reluctant gaze but manages to capture their essence as born out of their stories of loss and trauma.

Sharafat, like his mentor and ace photographer Showkat Nanda, recognizes the human element of his work and admits seeing himself as a human being first and then a photographer. This recognition allows Sharafat to immerse in his characters stories and revel in their happiness, ‘or be numbed by their pain’ and he sometimes feels ‘that the only way to escape is not by leaving but to cry.’ Sharafat approaches his characters with the expectation to understand them not just through one event, but also through entire lives. “I believe impact-full visuals are outcomes of a deep understanding of your character which comes when you spend a lot with them without the anxiety of outcome or exploitation of their stories.”

Sharafat
"The older I get, the more I appreciate my rural childhood. I spent a lot of time outdoors, unsupervised, which is a blessing." While holding her baby in lap Kashmiri woman along with kids posing for a picture at Raithan area situated in Central Kashmir of District Budgam. © Sharafat Ali
Sharafat
Sehrish sacrificed her education in order to save money for her household expenses. She taught her siblings herself at their temporary wooden rooms provided to them by an NGO. “I can at least teach my brother and sisters at home till they are in the high school.” says Sehrish. © Sharafat Ali
Sharafat
Dead body of 22-year-old Afroza, who died by drowning in Dal lake, after being chased by Indian forces during the 2016 uprising. © Sharafat Ali
Sharafat
Kashmiri women mourn the killing of a militant Adil Mushtaq Mir of Lashker e Toiba. Adil was 18-years-old when he was killed in a gunfight in Kulgam on June 16, 2017. © Sharafat Ali
Sharafat
We’ll find justice if not here in this world but in the hereafter on the Day of Judgement. ‘‘There is delay in God’s house not darkness’’. - Firdousa, mother of Vamiq Farooq. © Sharafat Ali
Sharafat
Raziya Bano prays at Dargah Hazratbal shrine on the eve of Eid-i-Milad © Sharafat Ali
Sharafat
Kashmiris often turn to religion for comfort and solace. © Sharafat Ali
Sharafat
Shameema, wife of Shabir Ahmad Gassi, who was picked up by Indian army on 22 January 2000 and subsequently disappeared - waits for his return.
© Sharafat Ali
Sharafat
In 1991, more than forty women, aged between 13 and 80 years, were allegedly raped at gunpoint by Indian army in twin villages of Kunan and Poshpora in Kupwara district. © Sharafat Ali


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