Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Portfolio: The Afghans #1

Below are a few outtake images from my 2009 work 'The Afghans'. If it's not already online, the project edit will be on my website soonest and I'll be publishing more from the series in the weeks to come.
Funded by a Simon Cumbers Grant, I hoped to illustrate national identity and culture beyond our perceptions of Afghanistan as a country that is somehow only an American led war zone, showing the daily life of ordinary Afghans. I wanted to show the psychological impact of more than three decades of war on the civilian population with it's attendant social problems, undocumented mental illness and spiraling rates of drug addiction.
While the project was a success on some levels, it's scope was broad and sprawling for the short time frame I had to work with and as a photographer in Afghanistan you are automatically seduced by the beguiling, raw beauty, tumbledown palaces and the stunning, fairy tale quality of this land and it's people...

Darul Aman Palace, Kabul 2009

Khair Khonair Area, Kabul, 2009

Image of former dictator Dhaoud Khan, Kabul, 2009

Kabul, 2009
Afghanistan is a place like no other and besides it's incredible people and amazing landscape it's also a kind of a paradise for the hard-nosed journalist or photographer. With it's well established network of fixers, drivers and translators and the plethora of international media who are used to ready access to prisons, hospitals, military institutions and pretty much any area of society that would normally be considered behind closed doors in Western countries; it's a supermarket of visually striking, seemingly edgy stories and images.
This can be reflected in the vast amount of photography from Afghanistan that in a way re-inforces our stereotypes of this country and kind of maintains a status-quo in how we in the west view the Afghan conundrum as a kind of 'beautiful suffering.'

Shooting heroin, Kabul, 2009

Patient possessed by spirits or 'Djinns'. Shrine of Mir Ali Baba, Nangarhar province, 2009
Indeed, producing this body of work led me to question what my position was as another photographer in this ruined land. Was I really saying anything with this body of work or was I standing on the shoulders of a thousand other photographers?

Funfair, Kabul, 2009

Kite Runners, Kabul, 2009

TV Tower, Kabul, 2009
Ethical questions aside, the spirit, humor and resilience of the Afghan people will continue to linger long in the mind and I look forward to returning in the near future.

1 comments:

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