Award-winning photographer and Instagram sensation Aamir Wani draws inspiration from the Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali. At the Mountain Echoes Festival in Bhutan next month, he will be talking about his favourite muse, Kashmir.
Kashmir is both beautiful and complex. How do you try to capture it in your frame?
For me, the focus is not the politics or the conflict, but rather the everyday... the culture, the heritage, the literature. I am not denying that our every day is unaffected by the conflict, but I do not need to show that through the frame of a person throwing a stone. Sometimes an ordinary person who has lived through conflict has the story in his eyes, or in a scar.
What are some of the disturbing trends when it comes to conflict photography in Kashmir?
I feel that constant images of bleeding protesters and youth in balaclavas with stones in their hands are really dangerous in this day and age. Yes, I understand that these images are needed for a certain level of reporting, but if that is almost all that is shown, it has two effects—it numbs us and it creates an unconscious bias. Conflict photography is intense, and it should be used with more care than simply splashing [photographs] across front pages over and over again.
Which has been your most challenging project so far in Kashmir?
The one that I did with a child rights organisation left a big impact on me. I documented lives of ten children who were growing up in very remote areas, often near the LoC in Kashmir. Most of them were orphans, some with families divided by the line, and very often, just cut off from the rest of the world. It is experiences like these that really overwhelm you. You almost feel helpless about how you can make the world a little better for them.
When it comes to travel and tourism photography, what are some of the cliches about the Kashmiri landscape you are careful to avoid?
The beauty of Kashmir is not just in its postcard vista. It is in our traditional architecture, market places, arts....