Kolkata -based documentary & street photographer Rana Pandey attempts to showcase the many socio-economic and untouched facets of human life in a more intimate form. Presently, Rana is extremely focused on his Kashmir centric ‘Project Bismillah’, which aims to bring out a few unheard stories from the region. He along with his team has visited the place over fifteen times during 2019-2021 and is actively using his shutter skills to promote commerce and tourism in the valley.
About the photographer, Rana Pandey
- His work was exhibited in a National Geographic curated fest ‘PhotoFest’ held in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico in 2019. Same year he was also honored at the Kolkata International Photography Festival.
- Pandey also had an opportunity to feature his work in India’s prominent photographer Raghu Rai’s ‘Creative Image Magazine.’
- Earlier, in 2018, he co-authored a book ‘Altars of Yearning: How India Prays’, which was released in The House of Lords by Cherie Blair (wife of ex-UK PM, Tony Blair and the former first lady of Great Britain). He’s also the recipient of Russian Press Photo Award at ‘The Andrei Stenin International Press Photo Contest’, Nikon Photo Contest, HIPA Photo Contest Winner and Sony World Photography Awards.
- His works have also been exhibited in Chelyabinsk State Museum of Local History, Chelyabinsk, Russia as a part of the ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ exhibition.
Talking about Project Bismillah and his experience in Kashmir Valley, Rana Pandey says-
“I first went to Kashmir in May 2019 and it was an instant love story. Since then, I have visited the place over 10 times. My initial Kashmir visit was just a trip without any plans whatsoever. Later, the scrapping of Article 370 changed everything. In my fourth visit to the place in October, I was greeted by closed shops, streets with massive police deployment and at times not even a single civilian was in sight. According to the locals, tourism was at an all-time low of just 5%. Majority of the people were sitting idle, with nothing to do, eating away their savings, children were sad because they hadn’t been to their school or met their friends in the last 3 months. And this is what gave rise to Project Bismillah.
When I went to Kashmir I found only love and hospitality, quite the opposite of what my friends and family had warned me about. From Pampore in Kashmir, where I documented the saffron cultivation, to the border villages of Ringavali, I was welcomed with open arms and people opened their houses to me as if I was their family. In fact, they are so hospitable that when I asked for tea, I was given lunch and when I asked permission for a photograph, I was given loads of memories.
Enough has been said and written about the plight of Kashmir. The true purpose of Project Bismillah is to show the true heart and soul of Kashmir and its people, to show that it’s still very safe here despite the past turbulent days. People here hoped for a better future, a better future for themselves and their family, through this project I want to make others realize that Kashmir needs us, as its economy is 95% tourism, it needs the love and support of the rest of India to survive, as nothing kills a place like isolation. This is my humble attempt of using creative arts to bring people, commerce and dreams back to Kashmir.”