When I shoot beautiful landscapes in Kashmir, it feels like looking for life in hell,” says Javeed Shah, photojournalist and photographer for The Indian Express, who has been shooting these haunting images for the past 17 years. His work has appeared in leading international publications such as Time Asia, the Guardian Weekend and The Wall Street Journal. An exhibition of his photographs is on at the Asia Society and Museum, New York, till 6 January.
As a photojournalist in the conflict-ridden valley, Shah has always felt a need to escape. He turned his attention to the breathtaking natural beauty, recording a visual truth infused by a bittersweet nostalgia of Kashmir’s loss. “Initially, I felt choked looking at the dead bodies, bloodshed and the devastation but then I hid myself behind the camera and got used to the situation,” says Shah. “Everything I saw through the lens was a subject for me and I perhaps lost the sensitivity and just became a photo-clicking machine.”
He has selected six of his works for us, six flashes of Kashmir’s stunning terrain, six landscapes you won’t find elsewhere, six more places to visit:
95. A summer picnic: The serene meadow of Yusmarg is a popular spot for excursions from Srinagar. Seen here is a group of schoolchildren camping on a warm July afternoon. Though it is said to rival Gulmarg in its natural setting, Yusmarg has hardly received the attention or infrastructural support bestowed on the former.
96. Slide away: An hour’s drive from Srinagar, the ski resort of Gulmarg is known for its supreme natural beauty. Winter sets in early here, with snowfall recorded sometimes even as early as October. This picture, taken in late November, catches an Indian tourist in the foreground as he vacates his sledge to negotiate an upward slope.
97. Fair greens: At once controversial, arresting and eye-catching, the Royal Spring Golf Course in Srinagar is captured here in the brilliant iridescence of an autumn evening. The pity is that you need to be a member or an acquaintance of one to be privy to this spectacle of colours.
98. A ripe harvest: Tulips are locally known as guli-lala. The tulip garden, called Siraj Bagh, near Boulevard Road in Srinagar is maintained by the state government, and the myriad colours of spring are reflected in this April evening shot. The picture was taken from under a deodar tree, abundant in the valley.
99. The mythical palace: Legends abound that Pari Mahal was once the dwelling place of fairies. Some people also suggest that if you listen carefully, you can hear music around this ancient monument. This picture has been shot with a long lens from Boulevard Road in Srinagar on a late winter morning. Pari Mahal is illuminated at night.
100. Thawing purity: The Dal lake is partly or completely frozen in winter. This picture was taken in January 2005 and the atmosphere was dazzling, crisp and clear just after a bout of snowfall. The boats on the docks in the foreground are near the Nehru Park, with the Zabarwan Hills forming a stunning background.
(Text by Arjun Razdan, Sumana Mukherjee, Melissa A. Bell and Aarti Basnyat)