Kashmiri photojournalist Masrat Zahra won the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF)’s Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award on Thursday.
The award was created to honor the life and work of Pulitzer Prize-winning AP photographer and IWMF Courage in Journalism Award winner Anja Niedringhaus (1965-2014)
Zahra was selected as the winner for her portfolio of conflict in Kashmir from a pool of more than 100 applications of women photojournalists from 40 countries worldwide.
The $20,000 ( 15,19,021.00 Indian Rupee) prize is awarded annually by the IWMF, which since 1990 has been fighting for press freedom and supporting courageous female journalists.
“Working in Kashmir, Zahra endures frequent harassment and consistent labeling as a threat to the Indian government. She was included on the June 2020 One Free Press list, which documents the world’s most urgent press freedom cases, due to an open investigation of photographs she posted on social media; Zahra could face a fine or up to seven years in prison,” the award committee said.
“This year’s submissions reflected the toll of government surveillance and political threats on local communities. Amidst the danger, each of this year’s honorees operated bravely in her own community to document civilian sacrifice and resistance,” it added.
Zahra’s work has appeared in The Caravan, The Washington Post, TRT World, Al Jazeera, The New Humanitarian, Religion Unplugged and several other media outlets. Zahra has previously exhibited at the annual Photoville festival in New York with her portfolio, “Journalists Under Fire.”
Juror Eman Mohammed noted that, “Masrat’s portfolio touches us with its humanity. Her work is intensely feeling, and she consistently puts herself before extreme danger to bring us the stories of her communities, especially those of women.”
Juror Tara Pixley commented that, “Masrat’s use of color, composition, shadow and light infuses her imagery with both dread and community. The story behind her work lends a closeness to her subjects, which requires a huge level of courage given the current situation in Indian-occupied Kashmir.”
With deep gratitude from Kashmir, Zahra commented: “Receiving this award from the IWMF shows that the work of journalists like me coming from small places is being acknowledged. I hope this honor will encourage me to perfect my skills and do my work more confidently. I also expect it to inspire other women photographers who are working in difficult environments. This is an honor to all women who choose to work in conflict zones. Finally, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my mentor, Showkat Nanda, for helping me to be a better storyteller.”