‘A photographer par excellence’
The journey of a Kashmiri photographer to click the ‘award winning movement’ that earned him MCC cricket photograph of the Year Award’ in 2017
As a child, Saqib always aspired to be a cricketer. Although, Saqib did not become a cricketer, but he made his mark on ‘International Cricket’ by capturing the most iconic cricket movements in his homeland- Kashmir.
Saqib was the second photographer in the ‘Asia’ to bag the prestigious ‘Wisden-Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) cricket photograph of the Year Award’ in 2017 and over again his picture made it to the list of MCC photographs, which were announced in April, 2018.
In an exclusive interview with Kashmir Images reporter, UFAQ FATIMA, Saqib Majeed talks at length about his journey as a photographer.
KI: You have come a long way in the field of photography. How did this journey begin?
Saqib: I grew up in a family which adored photography. My dad and uncle were passionate photographers. As a child, I used to fiddle with a film camera of my uncle. Since then I had this urge to make a career in photography. However, my parents wanted me to do engineering. So, I did a degree in civil engineering but passion for photography never left me. In 2010 I bought a digital camera and started shooting landscapes of Kashmir. From last eight years, the focus of my photography has been to represent my homeland on a global platform.
KI: You are the first photographer in India and second in Asia to win this prestigious award in 2017 and also the only photographer that made it to the list twice. How did it happen?
Saqib: The picture of boys playing under the Chinar in Nishat area first got published in ‘The Guardian’ newspaper and went viral on social media instantaneously. Many cricket celebs also shared the picture. MCC takes three pictures for entry and I had only sent one. Luckily, it was selected as the picture of the year and was displayed in International stadium-Lords for one year. Being a cricket lover myself, I always keep an eye on such kind of compositions. This year, one of my photographs, ranked 5th by MCC, was captured in Rainawari area depicting a group of youngsters playing cricket. International competitions receive thousands of entries and it is always great to make it to the list and if you do it twice, it is obviously double the fun.
KI: Have you received any specialized trainings?
Saqib: As already mentioned, my parents wanted me to be an engineer so I did not find any such opportunity to receive any formal training in the field of photography. But my passion led me to a sort of self- exploration in this realm and I went on to experiment leading me to some knowledge of the technical as well as aesthetical facets of the profession.
KI: Your work is very diverse. You have extensively captured both beauty and tragedies of Kashmir. What drives you to capture such varied genres of photography?
Saqib: Earlier, I just used to capture landscapes but as time went by I was interested in photojournalism too. Though, I am a very shy person it was a big deal for me to capture human interest stories. Gradually, I overcame the shyness and finally started covering clashes and encounters too. But I still love to call myself a landscape photographer and nature still thrills me beyond other genres. Conflict is a reality of Kashmir and so is the beauty; as the subjects of photography, both are important for me.
KI: How difficult is it to pursue a career in a field like photojournalism in Kashmir?
Saqib: When I started my career in photography, very less people were associated with it but now it is a very saturated field. But one has to find his/her niche and learn continuously. It is a hard competition to click a different shot of a scene when there are several other photojournalists clicking the same. It is unnerving at times but one has to be consistent with his/her work. I believe that no matter whatever challenges this field throws at you, success will be yours if you work hard and remain focused.
KI: Tell us about your other achievements?
Saqib: It is just the beginning. I have a long way to go. But as far as acknowledgment of my work is concerned, I am the only one to make it to MCC twice in a row, so their team has decided to publish my picture this year too in Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack- popularly known as the ‘Bible of cricket’. Besides this, my pictures have been published in various national and international publications including The Guardian, BBC, The Global Magazine, The Times of London, The Time Magazine, The Wall Street journal, Firstpost, The Washington Post.
KI: You are also a civil engineer. How do you balance?
Saqib: I always try to give my best in each field. Sometimes I have to make choices between the two. But that is fine. I believe it is better to do one thing at a time then to screw both at once.
KI: Did you come across any bottlenecks in reaching this far and how did you overcome them?
Saqib: At the beginning of my photography career, there was a lot of criticism and very less appreciation. Being in the field, capturing people and clashes were very difficult for me. The thought of being between pellets and stones used to scare me, but as they say, comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing grows there.
KI: Apart from photography, what else keeps you busy?
Saqib: I just like to spend quality time with my friends and relatives. That is all.
KI: What differences, as per you, can photojournalism bring in Kashmir?
Saqib: A picture has the power to speak in every language. So I think an in-depth coverage of the stories captured in pictures can create a strong visual narrative. Exploring the lives of people who have suffered here can actually bring about new details that are otherwise overshadowed by the predominant verbal narratives.
KI: What are your thoughts about the ethics related to this field?
Saqib: A conflict region tends to be a very sensitive place. Here ethics play a great role in maintaining the discipline. As we capture emotions of people we have a greater responsibility as photographers to respect the dignity of people. Holding camera in your hands does, in no way, give you the right to manipulate the truth and trample upon the privacy of people.
KI: What will be your message to aspiring photographers/Photojournalists?
Saqib: In the age of technology, youth get carried away with equipments. Let passion, persistence and a purpose be the only motives to join this field. Anything else apart from this is short lived.