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.