Project Overview: Afghan Tales
Project Components: Traveling Exhibition, Publications
Geographical Scope: Afghanistan, Switzerland, Sweden, United States, Denmark
Project Status: Ongoing, launched 2011
Project Overview: Afghan Tales
Commerce & Culture’s engagement in Afghan Photography since 2011 have been twofold. In Europa and the US, we have been seeking to bring attention to the work of Afghan photographers through the traveling exhibition Afghan Tales. Within Afghanistan, our work has been focused on developing and implementing a strategy to help strengthen Afghan photography through a series of workshops and by establishing a network.
Munch Gallery, New York City (US), Museum of Wold Culture, Gothenburg (SE), Spazio Reale, Monte Carasso (CH), The Danish Museum of Photography (DK), Nikolaj Kunsthal, Copenhagen (DK)
The photography exhibition Afghan Tales presents a new perspective on the complexities of contemporary Afghanistan, introducing a strong selection of some of the best contemporary Afghan photography. Afghan Tales is comprised of one of the largest archives on contemporary Afghan photography, representing the work of more than 20 male and female Afghan photographers working within press photography, documentary, and art photography.
Afghan photography has been undergoing an exciting revitalization during the latest years following the lift of the total ban on photography that was imposed during the Taliban rule. Seeing Afghanistan through the eyes of Afghan photographers enables a rarely achieved intimate presence in moments, processes, and conflicts in both public and private spheres, bringing sensitivity to the significance of everyday life and the conditions formative to their strategies and events.
The confidentiality Afghan photographers behold with their own cultures and social codes, provides them with a privileged position that enables access to otherwise closed circles. Furthermore, their long-term observations and involvement entail a different sensibility towards the less spectacular stories that, although difficultly sold to international newsrooms and editorials, can still be hugely formative to Afghan life. Operating as a photographer in Afghanistan is far from risk-free and several of the photographers in the Afghan Tales exhibition have first-hand experienced the unsafe terrain of photographic practice, receiving death threats, being put under arrest, kidnapped, and even forced into exile.
The Afghan Tales exhibition has a truly kaleidoscopic character, embracing contradictory stances as readily as the power of the autonomous narrative of a single image or a conceptually conceived series. Approaching contemporary Afghan photography entails engagement with a multitude of artistic expressions as well as a multitude of personal stories and attitudes towards what Afghan photography is and should be. It is from this copious position that Afghan Tales invites its audience along to an intimate and surprising meeting with a different and more diverse kind of Afghanistan that is normally shown.
The photographers contributing to Afghan Tales represent a broad take on contemporary Afghan photography, exploring a variety of themes through different genres and styles. Each of the photographers have their own individual approach and technique to capture what they believe are important aspects to contemporary life in Afghanistan.
Rada Akbar . Roqia Alavi . Hanifa Alizada . Barat Ali Batoor . Mumtaz Khan Chopan . Sulaiman Edrissy . Gulbuddin Elham . Zekria Gulistani . Jawid Hanan . Amina Hassani . Jawad Hamdard . Kia Hadi Morawej . Najibullah Musafer . Sadeq Naseri . Fraidoon Poya . Mohammad Reza . Sahel Basir Seerat . Reza Sepehri . Nasim Seyamak . Abdullah Shayagan . Fardin Waezi . Mohammed Ibrahim Wahid . Mohammad Dawood Wassl
The Story of Afghan Tales
The exhibition Afghan Tales has its roots in a project established in 2011 aimed at professionalising and supporting a revitalisation of Afghan photography. Upon the initiative of the Danish Centre for Culture and Development and the Danish Embassy in Kabul, Commerce & Culture was invited to design and manage a four year project with the objective of developing and implementing a strategy to help professionalise Afghan photography. Commerce & Culture engaged in a long research process locating the widely dispersed and often difficultly reached community of photographers in Afghanistan. Due to insecure conditions for copyright many photographers were reluctant to present their work online, just as the ban on photography imposed by the ousted Taliban regime still left the general safety situation for photographers somewhat uncertain. Through this investigative process Commerce & Culture gained a unique access and insight into contemporary Afghan photography and in 2013 established the Afghan Photography Network in collaboration with Kabul based 3rd Eye Photojournalism Centre. As Commerce & Culture became more deeply acquainted with contemporary Afghan photography and the cultural diversity it conveys, contemplations began of how to make this available to a wider international audience. In 2014 the exhibition Afghan Tales was created as an independent project run by Commerce & Culture.
The network and collaborative efforts that Commerce & Culture established during the project in Afghanistan form the basis for the extensive archive from which the Afghan Tales exhibition is composed. Several thousand photographs are already in the archive with regular new additions coming in which makes Afghan Tales one of the largest dynamic archives on contemporary Afghan photography. It includes a variety of practices and themes and appoints importance both to technical excellence and to the strength of the story and circumstances of the photo- graph alike. As such, Afghan Tales offers a kaleidoscopic perspective on contemporary Afghan society and presents a broad take on Afghan photography itself.