You Can’t Always Help, But You Can Always Be Kind
By Ross Taylor
Compassion is a characteristic that permeates the fabric of our profession. Its thread weaves through some of the most iconic works of our time. Without compassion, we wouldn’t connect at a level necessary to convey a deeper truth. Without it, this wouldn’t be the noble profession I believe it to be. This is also a key reason I’ve remained involved with the industry for most of my career. I’m moved by the care that so many in our field demonstrate.
It is needed now as much as ever.
We work to tell the story of others, often when others turn away. We also work in places that most would be wary of, only because we know the importance of the story. Many of us withstand hardship to create images on some of the most difficult of paths of humanity, even when it’s in your backyard.
Dar Yasin, 45, is emblematic of this. Based in Kashmir, Dar is a staff photographer for The Associated Press. I first met Dar when I traveled to work in India. He and his brother Rafiq Maqbool helped me immensely as I struggled to find my way. They not only helped me navigate and work as a photojournalist, but they also allowed me to work along with them at The Associated Press office in Srinagar. Previous to this help, I had felt lost and adrift. It’s principally because of their kindness toward me that I was able to push through. It’s that compassion for which I’ll always be grateful.
It’s no surprise that NPPA recognized Dar for the Humanitarian Award in 2018. Dar assisted an injured student who was part of a protest against India’s security forces in Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir. He helped her get to the hospital to treat her injuries. It’s this type of humanitarian concern that is paramount in covering tragedy.
He carried this with him while covering his homeland of Kashmir.
“I was born and brought up in the northern territory that has been a source of tension, and the cause of three wars, between India and Pakistan ever since 1947, when the colonial British quit the subcontinent,” Dar said. “I was just in sixth grade of my school when a young boy in our neighborhood was killed in police firing. Since then I've seen thousands getting killed. It’s a routine, normalized in our lives.”
Often, I see images from the ongoing conflict in Kashmir with his name in the credit. As the events unfold, I see many tragic images move across the wires into publication. One, however, caught my attention recently. It’s from a funeral of a Kashmiri man who was killed after he was run over by a Kashmiri paramilitary vehicle. According to The Associated Press, residents said it was on purpose, but officials counter that a crowd of protesters was trying to “drag soldiers from their vehicles.”
It’s a tragic picture, and when I looked at the credit line and saw Dar’s name, it moved me even more. Dar treats those he photographs with care. He earnestly wants to share the situation in his region, and I know he does it with respect.
“I've been covering conflict back in my homeland for over a decade now. Kashmir happens to be one of the most militarized zones in the world. India and Pakistan, which claim the disputed region in its entirety, are always in a state of war over the issue,” Dar said.
I asked Dar to what degree this has impacted him.
“Covering conflict in my homeland hasn't been easy, but it hasn't necessarily changed me. It has left a mark, it has made me rage, and it has left me in despair,” he said. “At one time, I thought perhaps that it had made me cynical and even uncaring about events and stories that happen elsewhere in the world.”
It’s on this personal level that Dar is better able to connect. Through years of covering conflict close to home, some notions have crystallized, especially after he covered the Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh.
“I knew that no matter how bad things were back in Kashmir, we still had a roof over our heads and food to eat and our families to be thankful for,” he said.
Dar stressed the notion of kindness, even while bearing witness to countless tragic events in his homeland of Kashmir. “I had once read somewhere that you can't necessarily help every person you meet, but you can be kind to everyone you meet. And I think that has stayed with me since,” he said.
“Just reaching out with a kind thought, word or deed towards someone else can completely break down all these ‘modern’ crises. And this is even more important when you are in a situation like the ones we face on a daily basis on the streets of Srinagar. Whether it is the paramilitary or the local police or the innocents caught in the crossfire, all it takes is a bit of kindness towards them, and immediately, the common humanity inherent in each of us surfaces. And that is what makes a picture worth a thousand words,” Dar said.
I agree. It’s important to consistently check our motives and have compassion as a guide. People can quickly tell when someone lacks tact and respect for their condition. We should eschew this behavior, especially in tragedy. It’s in compassion that we can find strength in our motives. This is crucial. We must not take lightly the path of others who are under duress. We owe it to them, and Dar demonstrates this daily, even in some of the toughest of situations.
Bio: Dar Yasin, was born in 1973 in Indian Kashmir. He has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and technology. Dar has extensively covered the Kashmiri conflict, as well as many global events such as the Afghan conflict, the South Asia earthquake and the historic opening of a bus route between Pakistan and India in Kashmir.
Dar has won dozens of international and national photo awards, in contests such as NPPA’s Best of Photojournalism, POYi and Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar. He received one of India’s Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards twice for the stories from Kashmir. Additionally, he’s been recognized by the National Headliner Awards, and by the Society of Professional Journalism with the Sigma Delta Chi Award. Dar also was part of The Associated Press team that won the Hal Boyle Award for the Rohingya exodus from the Overseas Press Club and a Robert F. Kennedy Award in the Print — International category.