The image she shows me on her laptop shows smears of blood on the floor, discarded clothing and prayer mats at one corner of the corridor. No action. No people. But Sanna Irshad Mattoo, one of Kashmir’s growing bunch of women photo-journalists, conveys the potential of objects and belongings to bear “witness”. The inanimate speaks out of the terrible violence that stains, not just the hospital floor, but, as the hashtgag suggests one that has permeated the soul of Kashmir.
When we were sitting in the park in Surya Nagar, I had asked him about the title conferred on him by a magazine – The Henri Cartier Bresson of India. I had a feeling that he doesn’t enjoy the title much and he insisted on being called as the S Paul of India, if referred to as anything apart from his name. Most of us would kill to be compared on that scale yet Paul wasn’t.
For long, Kashmiris have been captivated by the power of photography. But why? Why have so many of the world’s greatest geniuses with the camera produced some of their best work in Kashmir? Is it the unique tragicomedy of spectacular natural beauty and a gruesome conflict that has consumed generations? Why are there so many good photojournalists and photographers in Kashmir and why is their number on the rise?