|Message from Gharib Hanif
I am a hobbyist photographer based in the UK. I was born in Kotli district in Kashmir. I spent 10 wonderful years there as a youngster before moving to the UK. Here I received my formal education and then got a job as a Systems Analyst. Even though I have been in the UK for such a long time, I often go back to Kashmir to see my relatives and re-absorb the beauty of my homeland. It was back in 1981, on a trip to my family home in Kotli, I started to take photos on my cheap Practika film SLR. I took photos of my family home and village on that first photographic outing. On my return to the UK I upgraded to a Pentax ME Super and a zoom lens. On subsequent trips to Kashmir, I started to go further and further from my family village to take photos although transport and guidance was a problem; I went as far as Muzaffarabad and Gilgit/Baltistan. I was so mesmerised by the beauty of Kashmir, I just could not get enough or take enough photos. But the photos I took on those trips, on negative and slide film, were just for my pleasure and not many other people got to see them.
I started a website on human rights abuses in Indian-occupied-Kashmir back in 1995 (www.gharib.demon.co.uk now www.gharib.org.uk); this was probably the first website on Kashmir. Later I expanded the site to include some information on the area and used some of my photos. I also created a small photo album on the site to showcase a few of my photos. The feedback I got was very positive and I started to get asked for more photos. However, scanning and digitising negatives and slides was an expensive affair on those days. So I uploaded a dozen or two photos followed by some more.
In the early 2000s, with the advent of digital cameras and on-line photo galleries, I started to experiment. I retired the Pentax ME Super and bought a Sony 707 which gave me good service for 2-3 years. This was followed by a Nikon D100 which I was never happy with even though I had invested a lot of money on it. Two years later, I got rid of the Nikon and bought the Canon RebelXT and a Sigma zoom lens followed by a Canon 400D. In 2005 (exactly 10 years after the start of the Kashmir website) I started a photo gallery here on pbase. At this stage I had several hundred digital photos which I placed on the gallery. On my subsequent visits to Kashmir I have spent very little time at my family home; I have been on the road most of the time. Due to my family commitments in the UK, I only go back for 2 weeks every 2-3 years; most of this time is spent travelling taking photos. Trying to photograph everywhere from Jatlan to Neelam Valley is no easy task. Cost of car hire, hotel bills, local red-tape and air-fares have been the main obstacles for me so far. Moreover, the climate does not help as the extreme sun makes photography difficult. Whilst a more professional photographer with more time on his hand could wait for the right light to take a photo, I don't have that luxury. In my 2 weeks, I have to travel and cover as much as possible.
The Kashmir photo gallery here on Pbase has proved very successful with 13,732,965 hits so far. I get thousands of comments and emails every week from people who appreciate my work. I also get a lot of requests from people who want to see photos of their villages. Whilst I try my best, I can never fulfill all the requests; I just don't have the time.
With my budget equipment and lack of time, I feel that I have not, as yet, been able to do justice to the beauty of Kashmir. I just wish that I had enough free time and decent gear to show Kashmir to the world.
Please enjoy the photos of Kashmir.