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50 Years After Independence © Robert Nickeslberg 1997
50 Years After Independence © Robert Nickeslberg 1997 / Time Magazine

Robert Nickeslberg

You don’t get pictures by being behind the writer. And the writers can always push the photographers forward and say ‘tell us what it looks like up there’ and they hide. But that’s just the nature of the profession. It’s not a note of bravery or being crazy. It is where the pictures are.

Robert Nickelsberg

Robert Nickelsberg worked as a TIME magazine contract photographer for nearly thirty years, specializing in political and cultural change in developing countries. After covering Central and South America and the conflicts taking place there in the mid 1980s, he established his base in Asia. Living in New Delhi from 1988 to 1999, Nickelsberg recorded the rise of religious extremism in South Asia. His work has also encompassed Iraq, Kuwait, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Indonesia. Nickelsberg has documented Afghanistan since 1988 when he accompanied a group of mujahideen crossing the border from Pakistan. His 2013 book, A Distant War, published by Prestel, captures his 25 years of work in Afghanistan.

Nickelsberg was named the 2013 winner of the Overseas Press Club’s Olivier Rebbot Award for Afghanistan-A Distant War given for the best photographic reporting from abroad in magazines and books. His photographs have been exhibited at The Philadelphia Museum of Art, the International Center of Photography, the Queensborough Community College, the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University and at The New America Foundation in New York. He received grants for reporting on and photographing post-traumatic stress disease in Kashmir, India from the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma and the South Asian Journalism Association in 2008. In 2015, the O’Halloran Family Foundation presented Nickelsberg with a grant for his ongoing domestic sex trafficking project.

Nickelsberg lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife, Crary Pullen, and is represented by Getty Images.

50 Years After Independence, 1997 is a series of eight portraits shot during Nickelsberg’s visit to a tribal village in the Indian state of Gujarat near Pakistan border. The village was situated in the Rann of Kutch, a large and sparsely inhabited marshy land spread across two countries. Nickelsberg had travelled there for a Time magazine assignment in 1997 when both India and Pakistan celebrated their 50 years of independence from the British colonial rule. Located in such a remote corner of India, the village and its residents looked as if they were stuck in time, both economically and socially, even five decades after gaining freedom from the colonial power. Their mud houses and simple lifestyle stood in stark contrast to many bustling cities in India that are witnessing rapid economic growth. He had shot the series using Mamiya 7 medium format camera.

Published on January 24, 2021
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