This week, I had my first extensive Fundamentals of Photojournalism project due. The assignment was to photograph a classmate and in turn be someone else’s subject. Great concept considering I’ve never been documented by another photographer, and this assignment was meant to help prepare us for longer documentary projects but also to know what it’s like to be a subject (it’s incredibly bizarre, by the way. Aside from the fact that I’m not a fan of getting my photo taken, it was challenging to try and not think about this other person in my life hovering with a camera focused solely on me—and my dog. I also tried to keep my mind from wondering what angles/composition/etc. Alex, who shot me, was seeing/framing).
I had the pleasure of shooting Showkat Nanda who is an absolute gem. Aside from being an incredibly talented photographer, he’s a sweetheart who put me as a photographer at ease and I can only hope he felt the same as my subject.
We also had to learn a little bit about our person and find an angle or story to focus on within his/her life. Showkat’s life revolves mainly around photography. He wrote this beautifully heartbreaking piece about his personal experience as a conflict photographer in Kashmir, making a lot of correlations with the Palestinian crisis which really hit close to home for me. That article alone tells me so much about Showkat, but I especially loved his story of how he became a photographer.
After a day of conflict in the tumultuous region that is Kashmir in 1996, an American woman stepped out of a car in search of someone who spoke English. Nanda approached her and they began to talk. The woman, it turned out, was Washington Post foreign correspondent Pamela Constable.
“I could see she had a Nikon FM10,” Nanda said.
Before Constable left, she asked Nanda—then at the age of 15—one last question.
“She asked, ‘What do you want to do with your life?’ I said, ‘I want to be a doctor.’ She asked ‘why not a photographer or a writer so that you can tell the stories of your people to the world?’”
Aamer Trambu, of Kashmir, has known Nanda for about 2 months. The two have never met previously, but Trambu was one of the readers who had commented on the article and then shared the work via social media with his family and friends.
“I read his al jazeera article two years ago and have interacted with his work. His work is really inspiring. And it’s very touching,” Trambu said. “When I read it, I wept.”
(Quick side note: I kind of liked the serendipitous aspect of the fact that the woman Showkat is editing images with in one of the photos below is a Washington Post writer and photographer.)
One last thing before we get to the photos. We could only show 5-7 images, which was an entirely different challenge altogether. The following are the seven I showed in class (in this order) along with a few extras (the image at the top is among the extras). The main issue in my selection—which I saw while editing but was also confirmed by my instructor and chair of the photojournalism faculty at Mizzou, David Rees —is that I don’t have any really tight shots. Definitely something to keep in mind for next time.
Also, you’ll have to forgive lack of cutlines. I’ll just leave it at “software issues,” but the first three were taken at the Missouri Photo Workshop in Troy, Mo., which is open to photographers worldwide to participate in what is essentially a hands-on learning opportunity in documenting stories in the small, rural towns of Missouri. Participants in the workshop pitch stories to volunteers—professionals in the field from all across the country—and edit their stories/progress with their mentors. One of the mentors for Team Strkyer (which was the group of photographers Showkat was a part of), and who is photographed in the third image, is Washington Post writer and photographer Lois Raimondo. The images after that are of Showkat and his roommate, Aamer Trambu, in the Islamic Center of Central Missouri (where Trambu is a volunteer), and finally back at the two’s home, which is on the mosque’s property.
*Last side note: Images uploaded in this blog have been appearing soft lately. Clicking on the image will pull up a larger, sharper version.