Photography in Afghanistan- Part II

Nabi Khalili

Types of photography
Many types of photography have been practiced in the world, but not in Afghanistan. We will consider the types of photography which were practiced in Afghanistan:
•    Polaroid Photography
 A few years ago, the itinerant photographers who were working with their instant cameras in in the cities of Afghanistan to take Polaroid photographs, but by the development of new technology in Afghanistan, this job has disappeared. Those cameras were hand-made, wooden, and no electrical appliances were used in them.




•    War photography
The war in Afghanistan has made the most of photographers to the country. The camera and the gun have always been with together. In 1879, the Irish photographer, John Burke, who served in the British Army, came to Afghanistan for the first time with his camera and took photographs of the Second Anglo-British War and ordinary people's lives. He was the first war photographer who introduced Afghanistan as a wild land with warlike people through his photographs.
Here are some unique photographs of Afghanistan which were taken by John Burke.

Amir Shirali Khan, Photographer: John Burke

Two Afghan soldiers and their guns in Kabul

British Army Camp in the Khyber Gorge

The minstrel workers in Kabul

A view of Bala Hisar, Kabul

Tomb of Timur Shah in Kabul

A group of Kabul army soldiers

A group of Afghan soldiers

View of Jalalabad market in Nangarhar province

Amir Shirali (Amir of Afghanistan) and  his entourages

Relocation of passengers in the Kabul River

Balochuk mosque in Kabul

General Jenkins and Amir Ya'qub Khan (in the middle of the photograph) next to Davood Shah and Habib Khan before signing the Treaty of Gandmak

This was continued until 1980s, when war photographers came to the country for Soviet-Afghan war, to take photographs of the irregular troops, militia, and the Communists in Afghanistan. Most of them were foreign photographers and Afghans were attractive subjects for them. Mujahidin mullahs, young communists, widows, disabled children, broken homes, immigrant groups, and more.
The Iranian-French photographer Reza Deghati and the American photographer Steve Mccury are two of the most famous war photographers in the Afghanistan’s War. For the first time, the Afghans themselves took photographs of the wars. Militia (Mujahidin) groups, who applied media activity, had war photographers and took many photographs of war scenes and fighters and published them. Bashir Bakhtiari, Peik Nasrollah (photographer and cameraman of the Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan) and Yusuf Jan-nesar (photographer and cameraman of Ahmad Shah Masoud) are the photographers who were guerrillas and instead of gun; they had to carry the cameras.
During the civil war in Kabul, Peik Nasrollah held up a photo exhibition with the photographs of Kabul people who were living in the war.

Laws, governments, and photography
In 1869, Abdul Rahman Khan, who had failed in the war against King Amir Shirali Khan, fled to Samarkand and became a political refugee in the Russian Empire. Russian officials welcomed him well.  Before inviting him to Saint Petersburg, Emperor Alexander II asked him to send a photograph of himself and his entourages.
Samarkand's ruler took him and his entourages to the studio to take photograph of them. But none of them accepted to sit in front of the camera. They said, “Whoever takes his photo becomes an infidel.” Abdul Rahman Khan in his memoir book named "Taj al-Tawarikh" wrote: "I believe that our people are somehow intelligence, but now I was convinced that they are brainless". So the Afghan commander-in-chief inevitably only took his photograph and sent it to the Russian emperor. This real story describes the viewpoint of Muslims in general and the Afghan people about the photograph, which is related to the Islamic jurisprudence. It is the reason that throughout the history of Islamic civilization, photograph has been fiercely opposed and there is no photo (whether in the form of a statue or as a painting or a picture) of the Prophet, the caliphs, the religious elders, and even the Islamic rulers. This is also one of the reasons cited for the destruction of the Buddha statues and the paintings around it.

Taliban and Photography: photographs are taboos
 When Taliban came to power in 1994, photography, cinema, music, television, and painting of living things were banned. At that period, newspapers were published without photographs and singers sang on the radio without the music. Men were allowed to take photograph by wearing turban and women were allowed to press fingerprint for getting the ID card. For this reason, instant cameramen were not unemployed at this period. But against all these astringency, a number of photographers were secretly taking photos of wedding ceremonies and sending the film to Peshawar for printing. Even the Taliban soldiers themselves were eager to take photos; young mullahs with eyes' makeup and guns in their hands, sometimes sitting among plastic flowers took photographs. Some of these photos were posted on the Internet pages after the fall of the Taliban.
A photography studio named Shah took photographs of Taliban soldiers during the Taliban presence in Kandahar. A large number of members of the Taliban group were taken photographs in this studio; in these photos they hold flowers and pots in one hand, and a gun in the other one, and sometimes with very kind gestures.
Taliban initially banned photography and shut down many of the studios, but after a while allowed them to continue working, but they must not take photographs of Taliban members. Seyed Kamal, the owner of the Shah Photography studio, said: "I had to take the photos in secret in the back room and no one should have noticed them."
Warzak bought these photographs of Seyed Kamal, who dares to display them in his showcase after the Taliban exited for 20 – 40 $, and published them in Year 2004 in a book called The Taliban.




Taliban after 2002
Although Taliban rigorously enforced Islamic rules about photographs during their reign (2002-2002), but after being defeated and marginalized, they effectively used their photographs (both in photo and video) for propaganda. there were no sentence that has allowed using photographs in opposition to the central government, but it seems that Taliban have reconsidered their viewpoint.
Some experts who do not want to be named believed the reason of the boycott of the Taliban regime, rather than the fundamentalist beliefs, is the secretive nature of the group, as well as the activities of various other intelligence teams to keep them unknown. The Taliban use a variety of video images that contain lectures, war operations and suicide bombings both on their official website and on other affiliated websites for their propaganda.
Taliban widely published their promotional photographs and videos in both Afghanistan and Pakistan by using mobile phones. Most of these photos show and describe suicide bombings, warfare, and beheading of government soldiers or those alleged to have fought or spied on the Taliban.

Photography Organizations
After Taliban has fallen, some Afghans who had left the country and were refugees in abroad for many years, returned. Some of them also brought different arts and crafts. Many amateur and professional photographers started to work just in the first years of the new era.
Najibullah Mosafer, who was graduated of Kabul University's Fine Arts Department during the communist era, held the first post-Taliban photography exhibition in 2002, and the photographs of central areas of Afghanistan were shown there.
Reza Deghati came to Afghanistan again and this time he set up the Mirror Media Center to teach photography to Afghan youth. The center trained many young people with the trainer as him and other foreign photographers who are well-known persons in Afghan news photography in these days and they take photographs for international media. Masoud Hosseini, who won the Pulitzer Prize, is one of students of this center who has been working for AFP for nine years.
The photo which was taken by Masoud Hosseini, which won the Pulitzer Prize, shows a 12-year-old girl who is standing among the bloodthirsty carnage in Ashura bombings in Kabul and shouting. This tragic photo is a continuation of the all terrific photos taken from Afghanistan, which you can see only death and mourning in them.
The ''Third Eye'' Photojournalism Center was founded in 2008. Its co-founders were Najibullah Mosafer, Reza Yemek, Basir Sirat, and Reza Sahel.

Photography achievements of Afghanistan
The huge development after 2002
If we dare to mention the phenomenon of Afghan photography, it is something that emerged after 2002, at the same time of the fall of the Taliban. After that, global attention to the country in the military, economic, political, and cultural fields can be seen at the same time. The role of the media as a relationship between Afghanistan and the international community has a very special importance. As the fall of the Taliban, most of the world's major media covered the country. Thousands of photos, movies, news, and analysis were sent from Afghanistan to various countries around the world. It was at this time that by providing an exceptional and extraordinary context, some Afghan journalists and artists were able to promote in this opportunity.

The Pulitzer Prize
By winning the Pulitzer Prize Afghan photography potency were shown. Masoud Husseini, AFP photographer in Kabul, is the first Afghan who won the Pulitzer Prize for the agency.
The photo that won the prize shows a suicidal bombing in 2011 in Ashura mourning. This photo shows a girl among the people who were slain in suicidal bombing and is screaming because her family was killed.

Taraneh, the girl in green clothes, is bewildered because her family was killed during the bombing.