ISLAMABAD: Shakil Adil had almost forgotten about his images of the final struggles of a half-slaughtered camel during an Eidul Adha sacrifice in Karachi last year.
From an elevated vantage point on the rooftop of strangers, Adil’s lens captured an unexpected stampede as a camel being sacrificed let lose, blood trickling from its insides staining the mud below, panic ensuing among the butchers and spectators.
Adil was by his brother’s side, who had been injured during crossfire in the continuing strife in Lyari, this Wednesday when he learnt that his image had received an Honourable Mention at the NPPA: Best of Photojournalism 2012 awards.
“I was on routine coverage of Eidul Adha festivities,” shared the Karachi-based photographer who joined the Associated Press in 2000. Having covered the same processions for over a decade, the photojournalist explained his urge to look for something different, “less predictable” and he wasn’t sure if covering the sacrificial ritual of a camel slaughtering would provide for a new angle but he knocked on a few doors until he was allowed on a rooftop to view the gory procedure.
“All of a sudden the camel, which was tied up and half-slaughtered, started running around, creating mass panic.”
The snow-white camel that was bleeding in sheets on the ground below injured over ten spectators, before collapsing to the ground. Adil’s winning image is not of the collapsed animal but of the initial panic it created which only a photograph can describe, faces twisted in surprise, bodies ducking and running in disparate directions, some on the ground, shoes dispersed everywhere.
The National Press Photographer’s Association (NPPA) was founded in 1947 for the advancement of visual journalism and has since held an annual competition to honour the best of photojournalism. Adil was awarded an honourable mention in the general news category for still photographers alongside Charles Dharapak (first place, AP), Bernat Armangue (second place, AP), Damon Winters (third place, the New York Times) and Sam Dean (HM, The Ronaoke Times).
“This is a great moment for me,” said Adil, who is one of the few local Pakistani photojournalists to be recognised in this prestigious global competition.
Adil, who has spent his lifetime in Karachi, began shooting for a local newspaper in the 1990s when the city was ripe with violence and ethnic strife. He has since covered everything, from the floods of 2010 and 2011 to high profile Al-Qaeda arrests.
Photojournalism is a gruelling career choice, especially in Pakistan where it remains undervalued despite its invaluable place in storytelling in a land where stories are abundant. Though foreign photojournalists have been known to sweep into the bureaus, producing striking and award-winning images, few local photojournalists are recognized for their efforts, which makes this award a cause for celebration for all Pakistanis alike.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 4th, 2012.