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Recipients - February 2009

Judges - February 2009

Alice Gabriner, TIME Magazine

Melissa Harris, Aperture Magazine

Susan Meiselas, Magnum

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Andy Spyra


February 2009 Grants for Editorial Photography

About the project:

Conflict in Kashmir
I first came to Kashmir in the early spring of 2007 at the end of a motorcycle trip across India and simply fell in love with the region, the people, the light and the atmosphere of this remote place of the world. But as much as I love it, I struggle with the political situation of the valley.

Currently there are two conflicts in Kashmir, tightly woven into each other: The more known one is the international, atomically loaded border dispute between India and its archenemy Pakistan about the affiliation of Kashmir between the two states. The other, less known and the one I’m trying to document, is the inner-Kashmiri conflict on the Indian side of Kashmir, which is two- thirds of the complete territory.

I have spent the last two years documenting the ongoing conflict and the most recent was this summer, 2009 when I spent two months on the Indian side. I attended meetings of parents who have had children missing for many years that disappeared at some point without ever coming back or leaving a note. I had been invited into homes where family members mourned over the rape and murder of two young girls by paramilitary forces and I photographed a family whose sons were shot during one of the countless demonstrations.

These experiences didn‘t differ from my last two trips to Kashmir - the political and social climate remained the same as when I left the region half a year ago. The slogans were also the same during the countless demonstrations against the army, the symbol of the Indian occupation of what the Kashmiri’s call their "soil: Ham ka chate? Azadi!"- "What do we want? Freedom!" This is what it seems to stand for: freedom and independence from India.

Looking over the sixty year history of this conflict, it seems highly unlikely that the people of Kashmir will gain independence in the foreseeable future and that the world will see an independent Kashmir again. This strategic region is too important for both Nations to ever let it go. As soon as possible, I will travel back to Kashmir to keep on documenting the future of the so-called "Paradise on earth."

About the recipient:

Born 1984 in Hagen, Germany, Andy Spyra is a freelance photographer currently based in Hannover, Germany. After graduating from school in 2006 he journeyed to Central America and South East Asia where he came into first contact with photography. He worked one year as a freelance photographer for a local newspaper in Hagen and in 2007, began his studies in photography at the Fachhochschule Hannover.