Dr. Tabeenah, a senior journalist, is presently the Bureau Head of Deccan Herald in Rajasthan apart from being a vivid photographer. Born and brought up in the valley of Kashmir, Qureshi pursued her master’s and Ph.D. in Jaipur, Rajasthan, which she now calls her second home.
She chased her passion for photography diligently and went on to win the National Award in Photography conferred by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt of India. Dr. Tabeenah Anjum Qureshi is the first woman photographer from Rajasthan and Kashmir to bag the imminent award.
Camera for her is a co-traveller as she ventures out to click some of the most stupendous photographs. Her usual style follows the monochrome school of thought. Her work on Kashmir Floods was displayed in APPRA international conference in Kathmandu, in 2015. After completion of her doctorate degree, she was venerated with the prestigious UNICEF Media fellowship under which she researched on ‘Impact of Swachh Bharat Campaign in Tribal areas of Rajasthan’.
Tabeenah Anjum Qureshi
Inspiro India: Tell us something about yourself and how did you start creating?
– I call it the experiences of ‘a mountain girl wandering in the desert’. I won’t call it matter of chance but I owe a lot to Jaipur, my current residential city for pursuing the hidden passion of Photography. In the second year of my course, 2009, I participated in a three-week photojournalism workshop and that’s how the journey started. That time I did not have a camera to use, so I captured the photographs with the borrowed camera of my teacher Prof, Sanjeev Bhanawat, Head Centre for Mass Communication. It was my first exploration of Jaipur city with a camera. I started seeing new things. I would stop and observe. Looking through the viewfinder was an entirely different experience. When I returned to Kashmir in summer vacations, after seeing some prints of the photographs from the workshop that were later displayed in the exhibition, my parents gifted me a canon digital camera. I would roam around the city, into unknown lanes, revisit places, with my cotraveller. It was like revisiting my birthplace. So all through my vacations I would keep a camera in my bag and photograph everything. Then there was no stopping it. The camera became an ornament for me. I would wear it around my neck and feel proud.
Inspiro India: Did you face any kind of problems while pursuing this field? How satisfied do you feel after working in this field?
– Since photography is not just my profession but a fulfilling hobby and passion. It is a form of expression for me. I teach photography and photojournalism in colleges, university, and schools. It is always good to strike a conversation with new entrants, it feels as if one is revisiting her beginning days.
Inspiro India: Can you talk about your photo documentaries and ways of working?
– My style is both Documentary and Photojournalistic. Since I am a journalist and end up working on news stories, so gradually it has taken a form in the style of my photography. I love to capture people, subjects from the street, issues and of course, there are traces of abstract photography too in most of my work. For first three years I would capture everything randomly but with time I realized that there should be a body of work.
One major difference between Rajasthan and Kashmir is that the desert is more colourful. In the last 7 years I have travelled to most places in Rajasthan and being a woman photojournalist has helped me in terms of getting lovely portraits of women who otherwise get conscious in the presence of men.
I love black and white photographs. I believe they make our subjects more powerful. But sometimes colours too are important.
Inspiro India: How would you describe your photography style?
– Mine is a freestyle photography work. I love to capture emotions, geometry and off course every photograph has a story behind it. Autumn is my favourite month and I have captured it the most, especially crimson chinars in Kashmir. Besides this, I love to capture the bond between generations, women through veils, and practices of faith through photographs.
Inspiro India: If not this, What would have Tabeenah been doing? What did you aspire to be as a child?
– Well, I think that even in an imaginary world I would be doing exactly what I am doing right now! I say this because recently a friend of mine in Kashmir shared a page of a slam book with me. It mentions that when I had filled that, I was in class 7th. Interestingly, There is a question which says 1. What do you want to become in your life? And my answer which I had completely forgotten was ‘ Journalist, Teacher or a Doctor’. I am blessed that I am all three.
Recently I’ve earned a doctorate degree as well. My thesis was on Social Media. My inspiration to be a teacher came from my mother, the aim to become a doctor comes after seeing my grandfather who was a doctor treating patients, and I wanted to be a journalist because my hometown was always a center of attraction.
Inspiro India: Describe your post-processing workflow? What camera/s do you shoot with? And your favourite lenses and other equipment that you use?
– To be honest, I don’t do much post-processing. The only bit of contrast and conversion into Black and white. I stick to the basic principles of editing that was allowed in darkroom editing. I use canon 600D, and two lenses 40 mm and 18-135 mm. I bought it in 2013 and have not changed my kit since then. I believe more than the gadget one needs to learn and adapt the art of seeing. Gadgets are important and compositions are important as well. Also, I believe that a creative mentor is important to polish your skills, and for that, I am thankful to my friend and mentor Mr. Himanshu Vyas for being there.
Inspiro India: You are the recipient of prestigious 4th National Award in Photography (Amateur category), Conferred by I &B Ministry, Govt of India. Do you believe Awards and recognitions make any difference?
– Yes, that way I have been lucky enough. To some extent, they do make a difference. I believe that one should participate in as many competitions as he/she can. This way your photographic work gets reviewed as well. Otherwise, they just remain confined to our laptops and hard drives.
Inspiro India: Your favourite series and story behind it?
– One of my favourite series is on Kashmir flood – ‘Resilience- Kashmir Floods’. A photo story of 24 photographs which were displayed at APPRA international conference in Kathmandu in 2015. I have captured them in the autumn of 2014 when Jhelum breached its banks and swamped not only the golden Chinar leaves that were still falling in Kashmir but just about everything. People, cows, houses, trees…all were swept away by the river, flooded with incessant rains. The strong wooden pillars of Kashmiri homes that were inundated, weakened and worn off.
The photo exhibition was a depiction of life just after floods in a resilient valley. The strength and grace with which the people of Kashmir faced their fate are palpable. Photos show quiet and calm on hurt faces just as there was warm coming together of families and extended relatives. There was a struggle of migration but there’s also peace and surrender manifest at the doors of the shrines.
A year after the valley took one of its worst disasters in its stride; the social, economic and political impact of the floods are now woven into its fabric with some permanence. With a greater degree of permanence, autumn’s ripe in the valley again. As the golden Chinar leaves glide through nippy October air, lotus blooms are smugly afloat, canoes are ferrying & nadru, across and people are patiently rebuilding their lives amidst many rounds of Kahwa. Jhelum is flowing in its familiar rhythm.
Inspiro India: You are a journalist and working with a national newspaper, how does your passion help you in your career?
– Well, nowadays, it’s important for a journalist to have knowledge of all fields. It gives me an extra mileage as I can capture photographs from the story I am doing in my newspaper. It is always good if you know both the arts.
Inspiro India: Out of all the photographs you have ever taken, which is your favourite and why?
– There are many. Most of them are from the month of Autumn and by the sides of river Jhelum, in Srinagar, one of my favourite and only places to hang out in Kashmir. One photograph has the reflection of houseboats and chinars floating over the river. Then there is one of my initial photographs, a chinar in midair. Also, a frame with chinar on the mouth of Verinag, the source of river Jhelum.
Resilience – Kashmir Floods – Photo Series by ©Dr. Tabeenah Anjum Qureshi
Inspiro India: What advice would the artist inside you like to pass on to our readers?
– There is just one advice, keep clicking and ‘practice patience’. Don’t just treat your subjects merely as elements in your pictures. Try to be friendly with them. Also, I believe that Photography is an art, a photo might take seconds to form but a real good photograph takes sense and a mind of the photographer. Discuss your photographs, with your fellow photographers, friends, and parents. Discuss.
Check out his full feature in May’17 Edition of Inspiro India Magazine issue#38 – Download Free.