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.
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.’
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.