July 19, 2021
A chilling image of mass cremations of COVID-19 victims next to a heavily populated Delhi neighborhood while the Indian government suppressed death toll numbers during the brutal second wave in 2021. A searing picture of an angry Hindu mob ruthlessly beating up a bleeding Muslim man crouching on the ground during riots sparked by the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Delhi last year. The face of an Indian migrant worker carrying his 5-year-old son on his shoulders as they walk to their village 300 miles from Delhi during the nationwide lockdown in 2020. The vacant homes of the victims killed during the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka in 2019. The award-winning portrait of an exasperated Rohingya refugee sinking to her knees on the Shah Porir Dwip shore after traveling across the Bay of Bengal to reach the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in 2017.
If these tragedies have transcended headlines and become critical moments documenting nations in crisis, it’s because of the groundbreaking images of Indian photojournalist Danish Siddiqui. In the last decade, the Reuters photographer has covered wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, earthquakes in Nepal, pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, and the brutal Delhi riots, farmers’ protest, and deadly COVID-19 waves in India. Siddiqui was part of the seven-member Reuters team who won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for documenting the mass exodus of Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya community.
But Siddiqui’s time was cut short. The 38-year-old photographer died on July 16 in the southern province of Afghanistan while reporting on clashes between Afghan security forces and the Taliban near a border crossing with Pakistan. Three days before his death, he uploaded his last set of images, which boasted the trademark Siddiqui gaze: one that didn’t look down on people, but right at them, vividly humanizing their sacrifices and losses, in turn forcing the viewer to confront uncomfortable truths. A Danish Siddiqui photograph is impossible to look away from, and his last image from the ground was no different.