Rare Cartier-Bresson images destroyed in India

11th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

SRINAGAR, India, April 11 (AFP) - Rare photo prints of Kashmir life taken almost 60 years ago by Henri Cartier-Bresson were destroyed in a fire that engulfed a tourist guest house in the state, officials said Monday.

SRINAGAR, India, April 11 (AFP) - Rare photo prints of Kashmir life taken almost 60 years ago by Henri Cartier-Bresson were destroyed in a fire that engulfed a tourist guest house in the state, officials said Monday.

The four black and white original prints, taken when the French photographer toured India in 1948 and given to the state tourism office, were housed in a building for passengers awaiting the launch of a bus service in divided Kashmir, said state tourism director general Salim Beigh.

The facility was burnt down in an attack by Islamist militants last week. Among the pictures was a touching image of veiled women praying against a backdrop of cloud-draped mountains in the summer capital Srinagar.

Other lost photographs include people worshipping in Kashmir's Hazratbal mosque, which houses a hair of the Prophet Mohammed's beard, and life along the region's main river, the Jhelum.

"The immaculate collection of photographs on Kashmir is gone forever," Beigh said, adding that they were probably "priceless."

Cartier-Bresson died in August 2004, aged 96. He was in the Far East for three years from 1948 and in India at the time of Mahatma Gandhi's funeral, according to a biography published by the Paris-based Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson.

He was also one of the founders and a former president of Magnum, a cooperative photo agency.

The negatives were not housed at the tourism office and are likely with the photographer's estate, Beigh said.

The framed photographs were hanging in Beigh's office chambers in the tourist reception centre and every morning he said he would look at the pictures thinking "How could a man have captured such frames?"

"They were living images. Very beautiful," he said.

Jagdish Meheta, 65, who owns Kashmir's Meheta Studios, said the prints were made by Cartier-Bresson at their studio in the 1940s.

"My father and grandfather made the prints and did the framing. They told me they were very precious pictures. I used to visit the reception centre to view these photographs often."

Two rebels stormed the complex on April 6 to attack passengers housed in a guest house a day before the launch of the bus service. Eight people were injured in the attack before both rebels were killed. No passengers were hurt.

The raging fire also destroyed manuscripts of books written by British authors in late 1800 and a famous mural by Kashmiri artist G.R. Santosh, depicting one of Kashmir's famed folk legends.

Kashmir is in the grip of a 15-year-old insurgency that has so far left thousands dead.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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