In conversation with Sharafat Ali, Awardee of 2017 Ian Parry Scholarship
Ian Parry was a photojournalist who died while on assignment for The Sunday Times during the Romanian revolution in 1989. He was just 24 years of age.
Aidan Sullivan, then picture editor, and Ian’s friends and family created the Ian Parry Scholarship in order to build something positive from such a tragic death. Each year they hold an international photographic competition for young photographers who are either attending a full-time photographic course or are under 24.
This years Ian Parry Scholarship was divided into two categories:
The Award for Achievement and The Award for Potential.
Sharafat Ali, 22 year old student at AKS School of Photography, is among the four candidates who won the 2017 Ian Parry Scholarship. Sharafat, who is based in Kashmir and covers conflict, politics, faith and daily life in the region, won the Award for Achievement for his work on identity crisis in the region which claimed many lives.
In conversation with Oracle Opinions, Sharafat Ali talks about his journey into photography, achievements and future plans.
Tell us about your career in photography. How did you break into the photography?
It all started for me in the year 2013 when I got inclined towards photography and began shooting in streets and people (portraits). Since then my understanding and interest in photography has grown manifold. I liked the job of a “documentary photographer” and I opted photojournalism and documentary photography as my career.
What do you enjoy most about your photojournalism career? What are the pitfalls?
What I enjoy most about my photojournalism is to work on stories, which can bring social change in society. I believe in the creation of photo works with a deeper meaning. Being as photographer and an accountable resident of my motherland Kashmir, I enjoy to preserve or document stories for eternity and make them archival tool for generations to come. There will be pitfalls, hardships and it’s not unique to kashmir, but being dedicated, devoted to the cause of storytelling, the boat sails with the good rythm. I believe there are thousands of stories which need to be told but till one doesn’t go in-depth, one cannot tell a story which world will pay heed to.
Who are the biggest inspirations for your career?
My work and philosophy photography have been hugely influenced by Showkat Nanda. Showkat Nanda has been my first inspiration and I feel blessed that I am guided and mentored by him. He completely changed me as a photographer. From last three years, he has been mentoring me and I believe his guidance and mentorship has been instrumental in making me a better storyteller.
You won prestigious Ian Parry Scholarship. Tell our readers about it. How important is this to you, personally, and to your career?
As for winning the Award for Achievement, I believe it’s the greatest recognition for me as a photographer so far. When I started working as a photographer, my aim was never to be a photojournalist. Instead I wanted to be a documentary photographer who would spend most of his time working on important stories and long-term projects. So getting this award has been a great encouragement and I am sure this has given me more confidence to pursue my career as a visual storyteller.
A funding of 3500$ will be made in regard to the scholarship. Equipment of Canon, and my work will be exhibited in London. Till now my works have appeared in Sunday Times magazine, and rest media houses and outlets of world, and will appear for the future publications. But best of all, I will be accepted into the final list of nominees for the World Press Photo’s Joop Swart Masterclass in Amsterdam which is a dream of every photojournalist and documentary photographer. Moreover, firstly I’ll be travelling to London to receive this prestigious grant and in 2018 I will be traveling to Amsterdam to attend my masterclasses for the World Press Photo’s Joop Swart Masterclasses.
What are some of your favorite projects that you have completed and why?
I have been working on projects having the theme of conflict, politics, faith and dailylife in Kashmir for the last three years. All projects are based on long-term protrudes. For me these certain themes are unending in its nature plus interrelated to each other due to conflict in Kashmir. I would like to work and continue on these long-term protrudes till rest of my life.
What are some of your personal and/or professional goals for the future?
Personal and professional goal is to tell some of the most important stories of Kashmir to the outside world through the powerful medium of photography. And to document Kashmir from the perspective of someone who has lived through this conflict. I don’t want to cover anything violent because that has been done extensively. I feel that the other aspects of Kashmir have remained undiscovered. So I plan to shoot the personal side of Kashmiri life. It includes how courageously people have been living their lives amid a deep sense of fear, threat and identity crisis.
What is the future of Photojournalism in a conflict zone like Kashmir? What challenges do photojournalists face here?
In a conflict zone like Kashmir future of photojournalism has both brighter and darker sides. While working in conflict zone, be it in Kashmir on anywhere in the world one has to be very careful and cautious about the work he/she is producing on the ground zero. I believe our lives are more precious than our pictures which we make or take on the field. In Kashmir, Photojournalism is more challenging than anywhere else in the world. But the beauty of photojournalism is that it is a form of absolutely unmediated representation of aspects of the reality.
What is your message for the local photojournalists and aspirants?
Shoot hard, shoot different.
Thank You for your valuable time!