Archive of Now: Photography in Kashmir

An artist talk by Sanjay Kak about the role of photography in defining the ongoing struggle in Kashmir


Fields of Knowledge
  • Memory
  • Public culture
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions

Slought, Penn Cinema and Media Studies

Contributing Institutions

Latitudes Working Group and South Asia Studies Department at the University of Pennsylvania

Opens to public





4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Slought is pleased to announce "Archive of Now: Photography in Kashmir 1986-2016," an artist talk by Sanjay Kak about the role of photography in defining the ongoing struggle in Kashmir on Tuesday, October 11, 2022 at Slought from 5:30-7pm. This event, free and open to the public, has been made possible through the generous support of Penn Cinema and Media Studies, the Latitudes Working Group in the Department of English, and the South Asia Studies Department at the University of Pennsylvania.

Photography in Kashmir has emerged as a powerful witness to its troubled present. Rooted in photojournalism, but escaping its limits when possible, a new generation of photographers has illuminated Kashmiri life in a period of upheaval that has lasted over three decades. Their work has demonstrated the radical part that can be played by photographs in subverting the established views of Kashmir – of a beautiful landscape sans people; as an innocent paradise; or more recently, of a paradise beset by mindless violence.

Witness is a curated book project that brings together images by nine photographers from Kashmir: Meraj Uddin, Javeed Shah, Dar Yasin, Javed Dar, Altaf Qadri, Sumit Dayal, Showkat Nanda, Syed Shahriyar and Azaan Shah. The text emerged from their conversations with documentary filmmaker Sanjay Kak, and brings out the varied relationships that each contributor has to photography and to Kashmir, in the process raising questions about the place of artistic practice in zones of conflict.

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"Witness began as a sort of 'archival' project, one of recovery. By the time it came out in 2017 it very much belonged to the present, as Kashmiri photographers suddenly emerged out of the shadows, with Pulitzers and global acknowledgement. In Aug 2019, as the slender autonomy enjoyed by the State was revoked, a brutally enforced media clampdown followed, including on photographers. A dead silence has fallen on what was a fairly vigorous space. In some odd way Witness has returned to its early position as an archive."

-- Sanjay Kak

Sanjay Kak is an independent documentary filmmaker and writer whose recent work includes the films Red Ant Dream (2013) about the persistence of the revolutionary ideal in India, Jashn-e-Azadi (How we celebrate freedom, 2007) about the idea of freedom in Kashmir, and Words on Water (2002) about the struggle against the Narmada dams in central India.

Sanjay is the editor of the anthology Until My Freedom Has Come – The New Intifada in Kashmir (Penguin India 2011, Haymarket Books USA 2013). He is also the editor and publisher of the critically acclaimed photobook, Witness – Kashmir 1986-2016, 9 Photographers which was published independently under the imprint of Yaarbal Books. At Yaarbal he has also edited and published the recent Cups of nun chai by Alana Hunt. A self-taught filmmaker, he writes occasional political commentary, and reviews books that he is passionately engaged by. He has been active with the documentary cinema movement in India, and with the Cinema of Resistance project.

"There is a lot of grace in this compendium of photojournalism about Kashmir, and there is much despair as well. This book about the region, the product of nine photojournalists working over three decades, merits the title "Witness." The photographers are not outsiders visiting on assignment. They are all Kashmiri — from Meraj Ud Din (born in 1959) to Azaan Shah (born in 1997) — and the impact of their familiarity with and emotional commitment to the place shows. Put together by the New Delhi-based Yaarbal press, the book is an exceedingly beautiful art object, despite its grim contents."

-- Teju Cole, The New York Times Magazine