Altaf Qadri was born in Srinagar, Kashmir and studied science at Kashmir University. He began his working life as a computer engineer, before taking up photography as a profession. Qadri grew up amid mass uprisings against Indian rule and witnessed many important events and incidents as a teenager. He was later sent to New Delhi, where his sister lived. When a friend gave him a camera, Qadri began to shoot and soon realized that the camera could become a witness along with him.
He returned after several months of self-exile and began his first assignment as a freelancer. In 2001, Qadri began to work at a local newspaper as a staff photographer. In 2003, he joined the European Pressphoto Agency, for which he provided extensive coverage of the conflict in Kashmir, until May 2008. In September of that year he joined The Associated Press and is still with AP and based in Amritsar, India. Qadri has covered news stories in Afghanistan, Nepal, Cambodia, Saudi Arabia and numerous provinces of India. His photographs and stories have appeared in newspapers and news magazines around the globe, including National Geographic, Time, Newsweek, The Guardian, The New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Washington Post and The Times.
He has received numerous awards and honors and his work has been exhibited in, among other places, Los Angeles, Washington DC, San Francisco, New York, Cambodia, Beijing, Paris, New Delhi and Mumbai.