One year of photojournalist Danish Siddiqui’s death

The chronicler of Covid times receives second Pulitzer – posthumously

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Danish Siddiqui
Danish Siddiqui was announced the winner of a second Pulitzer Prize in Feature Photography on 9 May 2022, posthumously – for his heart-wrenching encapsulation of the plight of victims of the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo Reuters

As we complete a year to Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Ahmad Danish Siddiqui’s demise, we take a walk down memory lane to the pictorial legacy he left behind. Siddiqui, an Indian photojournalist on assignment in Afghanistan was killed by the Taliban forces in the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province, near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border on 15 July 2021. Siddiqui was only 38 at the time of his death. 

He is still remembered with emotion for his compelling shots of the Covid-19 toll in India and the exodus of migrants from the cities back to the countryside at the sudden lockdown on 25 March 2020. He visually documented significant events in India and Asia and the Middle East such as the Nepal earthquake, the Sri Lankan Easter Sunday blasts, the Myanmar refugee crisis, the Iraq war, the Hong Kong protests, and the Delhi riots.

Danish Siddiqui
Danish Siddiqui poses for a picture at Columbia University’s Low Memorial Library during the Pulitzer Prize giving ceremony, in New York, US, 30 May, 2018. Photo: Reuters/
Mohammad Ponir Hossain

Best remembered for his documentation of human suffering and war, Siddiqui was brought up in Delhi where his father Mohammad Akhtar Siddiqui taught at the Faculty of Education in Jamia Millia Islamia for many years until retirement. An alumnus of Jamia Millia Islamia himself, he had been working for around 12 years with news agency Reuters, starting in 2010. Before joining Reuters he  worked briefly with the Hindustan Times and TV Today.  He enrolled for a PG course at AJK Mass Communication and Research Centre (MCRC) of Jamia Millia Islamia in 2005, after completing his graduation in economics from the university.

He received his first Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography in 2018 as a part of the Reuters photography team for the moments captured in the Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar. Siddiqui’s Reuters’ profile read, “While I enjoy covering news stories – from business to politics to sports – what I enjoy most is capturing the human face of a breaking story…I shoot for the common man who wants to see and feel a story from a place where he can’t be present himself.” 

Largely self-taught, the riveting photographs focused on the stories of the people captured by his lens. His body of work gave depth to the old adage ‘A picture is worth a thousand words.’

Danish Siddiqui
A Kashmiri woman watches protests in Anchar neighbourhood after Friday prayers, during restrictions following scrapping of the special constitutional status for Kashmir by the Indian government, in Srinagar 20 September 2019. Reuters/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo

Siddiqui was announced the winner of a second Pulitzer Prize in Feature Photography on 9 May 2022, posthumously – for his heart-wrenching encapsulation of the plight of victims of the Covid-19 pandemic. Other photojournalists who were honored with the Pulitzer Prize for their images depicting the Covid-19 catastrophe in India were Siddiqui’s Reuters colleagues Amit Dave, Sana Irshad Mattoo, and Adnan Abidi.

The Pultizer Prize, established in 1917 and administered by Columbia University, recognizes extraordinary talent in newspapers, magazines, digital journalism, literature, and musical composition. The prestigious annual honor is awarded in 21 categories, with each of the 20 category winners receiving a US$ 15,000 cash prize (approximately Rs 11,98,117) and a certificate, while the awardee in the public service category receives a gold medal.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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