A Tribute to Chroniclers of Truth Through Images

Like all Indians and people around the world I was deeply affected by images clicked by Danish Siddique, Md Meharban and other brilliant photo-journalists who stepped up to chronicle truth and reality of Kashmir, Delhi riots, plight of migrants during lockdowns and the deadly second Covid wave. While most godi media channels blatantly lied, others were either gagged or were probably told to toe an official line, they were the only ones clicking images on the ground risking their lives.

Their images did not lie because they chose to document real victims and their gaze was focussed on human sufferings. They stepped up to tell the stories of the common humans who became victims as the system completely failed them. They gathered the evidence of how system had nearly collapsed during the second wave. The global aid that India received came after these powerful images clicked by Danish Siddique and others went viral. The aid that still remains unaccounted for.

The job of photo-journalists is always the toughest one. People forget that they are doing a honest job and carrying a social responsibility. The trolls who are targetting Danish today are similar to the ones who targetted Kevin Carter, the famous South African photographer who had clicked the infamous image of an infant being stalked by a vulture during Sudan famine. His powerful images got the much needed attention of the world and Sudan got much aid that it desperately needed. But unfortunately Kevin Carter who won Pulitzer award for the image was called out to be inhuman even before world heard his side of the story. He committed suicide later at the age of 33.

It is difficult to bear witness and document trauma from frontline and then it becomes even more traumatic when the photographer is vilified for the images he clicked. How else can one chronicle suffering without showing the real suffering?

We often forget these photo-journalists work for agencies and they have a toughest job in the world to be there on the frontline armed only with their cameras and gears. Many don’t even make it back home alive. Our Danish didn’t. Moreover, they don’t sell their craft and work for awards, it is other way around – they are lauded for their bravery and courage to tell the truth.

Trolls, if images of realities hurt you, then try to change the realities rather than killing or trolling the messenger. Tell your leaders to clean up their act and take responsibility of their actions and inactions. Tell them to show some compassion towards people who elected them.

Photo-journalists are also frontline warriors like doctors or soldiers. If one dies on duty then others will certainly step up. Danish’s work will inspire many others to shoulder the same social responsibility passionately.

For past couple of days, the news of his death, mass scale outpouring of grief that seems so palpable and personal doesn’t seem to make sense. But then probably, not everything in life is suppose to make sense.

We will see Danish in every frame he clicked, we will see his humane gaze, just like I see my Nana in every frame of the freedom movement he clicked. While historic images embark on journeys of their own forward…photographers also keep traveling with them…not just as a cursory name mention but as the eyes which witnessed history…

Thank you, Danish for bearing witness to harsh realities often alone on behalf of all of us…thank you for leaving behind evidences of truth and lies of our times for the future generations…