UAE photographers hope to help Kashmir

Six photographers create a series of photos that capture the hardship of lives in Kashmir in hopes of raising money to donate to Unicef.

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ABU DHABI// When Shahid Hashmi and his friends embarked on a two-week journey into the heart of Kashmir, they expected to photograph the breathtaking natural landscape. Instead, they ended up with a series of photographs that captured the hardship of the lives of the nomads and migrant workers, who live in isolation and extreme poverty. Taken aback by what they saw, Mr Hashmi, and the other Abu Dhabi-based photographers decided to raise money through a series of exhibitions and donate the proceeds to Unicef in order to start a vaccination programme in these remote areas. The "Kashmir Through the Lens" photo exhibition will travel to the US this week. All the photographers ? Abdul Nasser, Carl Abrams, Henry D'Silva, and Sujin Balakumaran and Mr Hashmi ? are based in Abu Dhabi and have formed a collective at the Cultural Foundation where they meet every month. Since five of the six photographers are Indian, they decided in 2007 to undertake a photography trek into the hills of Kashmir. A profile shot by Mr Nasser, an advertising executive, of one of these nomads took top prize at the Dubai Summer Surprises last year. They spent 18 days in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and travelled to such remote parts as Ladakh, Pahalgam, Kargil, and Srinagar. They photographed shepherds who lead a nomadic existence and whose livelihood is their cattle stock, who they herd up and down the mountains depending on the weather. "We met lots and lots of groups (nomads). They'd ask us for medicines. No one asked us for money or food. Most of them were suffering from fever, body ache, tooth ache and other such basic ailments, and didn't have basic medication even for that," said Mr Hashmi, who is a banker in Abu Dhabi. When the group approached Unicef in Dubai to set up a programme to distribute medicines, they found out that $1 (Dh3.67) can vaccinate 10 children. "Depending on how much we give them, they will be able to launch a campaign. Now we are aiming for that. When there is enough to one campaign, we hope to work it out." he said.