We live in an age dominated by pictures. Photo sharing apps like Snapchat and Instagram now compete with emails and phone calls as a primary means of staying in touch with friends. For many, these advancements in technology are fun and fulfilling. But for others, they can bring severe stress and a crippling sense of anxiety. I’m talking about people with a phobia of being photographed. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill ‘I look hideous today’ type scenario. These are people who experience panic attacks, nausea and even vomiting as a result of having their picture taken. Sounds extreme? Well if it didn’t then it wouldn’t be a phobia, right!?
I’ve spent hours trawling through forums written by people who share this phobia. One woman in Canada wrote “I have the most intense crippling fear of being photographed… I didn’t join the library until they had an online membership. I can’t renew my passport… Or my driver’s license. It seems like you need photo membership cards for everything now…” A lady in the UK responded with a comment “I cut myself out of every photo and threw my wedding album on the fire”. Others discussed how they avoid social occasions altogether when they know that they’ll be expected to pose for photos. While cameras are a relatively new invention and a definition for the phobia of being photographed has not yet been established, there are similar phobias dating back thousands of years. Scopophobia refers to the fear of being looked at and Eisoptrophobia is the fear of seeing one’s own reflection. As many fellow Australians will know, some cultures fear cameras for religious or spiritual reasons, believing that photos can steal one’s soul or prevent it from passing on to the afterlife. This is the case with many Australian Aborigine cultures. However this modern day phobia does not seem to be about that. It seems much more rooted in issues of self-esteem, body image and self-identity.
My research showed me that one reason this phobia affects people so deeply is that on top of the anxiety it causes can often come a sense of guilt. A feeling that one is hurting family or friends by not participating in their ‘happy memories’. It’s easy to dismiss the phobia as silly, with comments like “Just get in the photo – you’re only making it worse.” But the first thing to know about phobias is that they are deeply-rooted and forcing someone to face theirs unwillingly can make it far worse. Would throwing a tarantula onto an arachnophobe cure their fear of spiders? I doubt it. So why would shoving a camera into someone’s face cure their phobia of being photographed? The specific reasons that people give for their phobia are varied. Many commented that it’s because they feel ashamed or embarrassed at the way they look in photos. That they think they have a fake smile and look miserable, or that they look ugly and will be judged because of it. Other people said that the fear is more about the sense of permanence; in the not knowing where the photo will end up and who will look at it. Social anxieties, body image disorders and self-esteem issues are deep, complex issues and I am by no means qualified to discuss them. I guess if anything I wrote this article with the simple intention of spreading awareness. Firstly, so that people who have a phobia of being photographed know that they are not alone. It is a common experience for men and women across the globe. Heck, even world-famous singer Adelle has this phobia and is reported to have undergone ‘photo-healing therapy’ with a Californian hypnotherapist! And secondly, I hope that this story reaches someone who has a friend or family member with this phobia, so that they will no longer dismiss it so flippantly. Recognize that this fear is connected with people’s sense of identity. And that is not a ‘silly’ thing. Making it a habit of being photographed would much interfere in managing the time and self-stability at all. Doing such actions to take selifies and photos sometimes became great reasons of accidents and even death.
Lastly I would like to say that in my research I discovered many people who overcame their phobia of being photographed, proving that it doesn’t have to be a permanent thing. While you may not wish to take new photos, try to resist destroying the ones that you already have… Maybe one day you will look back on them and smile.
By clicking photos will not change your identity. Don’t make it a habit either you will be the victim of its phobia.
(The writer holds a Master’s degree in Education from AMU)
Shujaat Bukhari: In many worlds at the same time, yet rooted to the ground
Shujaat Bukhari, perhaps embarrassed about his tall and distinct demeanour, hunched just a wee bit to make his friends comfortable. His two children, before they were five, would walk with their head distinctly bent to the right, as that was a good imitation of Abba, always on the cellphone, trying to be hands-free. Always wired, he was quick to read up NYT and The Guardian first thing in the morning, before the smartphone arrived, as he tapped his fingers, itching to read the newspapers that reached only in the afternoon. With a trademark mischievous smile, he had mastered just the right manner to disarm you as he proceeded to slowly rip your arguments apart —whether in the biting Kashmir cold or the sweltering Delhi heat. He had just turned 50 this February.
A journalist with spunk, courage and a keen sense of his calling, of telling the story, Bukhari fundamentally believed it was his bounden duty to jump fences between holders of different truths and come to his own conclusions. It is no surprise that his ‘pinned tweet’ is from an Editors Conference in Lisbon in May. He liked being in many worlds at the same time.
Bukhari, widely travelled inside and outside Jammu and Kashmir, was able to blend a truly rooted view of the ground in the state with an easy cosmopolitan perspective. His stints in universities abroad, his long journey with The Hindu brought out the best in him, even though in his final years he gave his newspaper, Rising Kashmir, his everything.
Laughingly, he would speak of The Hindu as being the best teacher, because he had to ultimately ensure that “Anna Salai” (the road with The Hindu’s head office in Chennai) understood the importance of what was happening “downtown or in Baramulla”. That, he said, forced him to be able to tease out stories and be most matter of fact. A long and sustained stint there through very troubled years in the state made his a reliable and valued byline. Says Harish Khare, his editor for many years who got him into The Hindu group, “He was my first contact in Kashmir and I was always struck by his commitment to fairness in reporting. I met him in 1994, got him into the group then.”
Bukhari, in his own office at Press Colony, hosted hundreds of parachuting journalists in and out of the state — in dark times, when stepping out was impossible after sunset, to rosier times, when apple orchards would be covered and there was optimism over the bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad.
Says Sachidadand Murthy, resident editor of The Week, “His deepest quality was his curiosity. He was always hungry for all kinds of information from all sides and had an ability to piece together all the nuggets. He was an excellent reporter, always ahead of things. After a recent health scare, we all flocked to him after he came to Delhi, but he scoffed our concern away with the reminder that he needed to bring out a paper everyday and had to have his hands back at the wheel.”
On quitting The Hindu, Bukhari took to editing his own newspaper. Even in his avatar as an Editor-in-Chief, with more responsibilities now and a sibling who went on to become (and still is) a minister in the PDP-BJP government, always punched hard and stayed above the fray. In a world dominated by social media, Bukhari adapted remarkably to being able to translate his thoughtful and shrewd assessments to the demands of expressing himself 24X7.
With a declared and courageous view that he stood by the peace process, Bukhari was part of a small group of voices with a well-rounded view of the Kashmir situation and an ability to convey what changed there and what didn’t, convincingly to the rest of the country and world. He was happy to not always be seen to be in sync with the dominant view of his peers in the field. For example, he felt that Kashmir should host a literature festival in 2011, contrary to what influential colleagues and writers felt, and he wrote about it and held his ground. In the past few months, while he welcomed the Ramzan ceasefire, his world had grown darker and he did not like what he saw.
Among the last things he did was to still write about his defence of objective and solid reporting from Kashmir as he wrote about allegations that Kashmiri journalists were biased, “we have done Journalism with pride and will continue to highlight what happens on the ground”.
Journalists In Kashmir Risk Everyday
In one of his last tweets before he was brutally shot dead, Shujaat Bukhari wrote,” In Kashmir, we have done journalism with pride, and will continue to highlight what happens on the ground.” This was Shujaat, exasperated with the increasingly polarised discourse in the country which seeks to label all of us, and more so, journalists from Kashmir. Shujaat was hard to label. Because he was a moderate voice from the Valley. In today’s reductionist terms, that means he was a “jihadi” for the extreme right wing, which is now a ‘compliment’ for anyone who advocates peace and dialogue. And that is exactly the reason why the other side thought he had “sold out” to India.
The fact is, Shujaat always stood for dialogue and peace. He was very active on the “Track 2” circuit between India and Pakistan. And within India, he regularly organised and attended seminars and conferences on Kashmir, which included sessions on bridging the divide between Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims. Over the last few years, he appeared regularly on our TV shows. We didn’t always agree, but he was polite and put across his point of view firmly but respectfully.
He would make it a point to always tell me how some other TV channels had poisoned the discourse in Kashmir with their hate-driven agenda night after night. Those sections of the media have done so much harm, essentially in labelling all Kashmiris as stone-pelters and terrorists, calling anyone who wants peace a “lobbyist” and “Pakistan apologist”. They haven’t even spared Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti from these labels, she who is a democratically-elected Chief Minister no less.
Which is why I tweeted last night that armchair patriots really don’t understand what journalists in Kashmir go through, the kind of pressure they face in their reporting day after day. My colleague Zaffar Iqbal was shot by terrorists and miraculously survived. I know it takes immense courage for him to report from the Valley; for years, he didn’t have the strength to go back to live there. Both he and NDTV’s Nazir Masoodi have always been fair, objective and courageous in their reporting, along with many other journalists in the Valley. Today, I want to thank them for what they do.
Shujaat had welcomed the recent ceasefire announced by the centre in the Valley, a ceasefire that terrorist groups and their supporters have been seeking to destroy from the very moment it was put into place. His killing reminds me of the assassination of separatist leader Abdul Ghani Lone in 2002, who was murdered for talking about peace. I have no doubt that Shujaat has been killed by the same forces. The onus is on us to make sure those forces are eventually defeated. RIP Shujaat.
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