Afghan Tales Photographers
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 has their own individual approach and technique to capture what they believe are important aspects to contemporary life in Afghanistan. The majority of the photographers live and work in Afghanistan and all images in the Afghan Tales archive were taken in Afghanistan, however, some photographers have recently been forced into exile due to repercussions related to both professional and private issues.
Najibullah Musafer first started expressing himself through art as an art student at Kabul University where he foremost practiced as a painter. He later developed his photographic skills and techniques with the help of Kate Clarke during the Taliban regime. In 2002 he held a large solo exhibition exploring Afghanistan during the tough years of war. Najibullah Musafer is now the director of 3rd Eye Film and Photojournalism Center and is teaching and conducting photography workshops and independent classes all over Afghanistan. His work has been published in several magazines and exhibited in Afghanistan and internationally.
Mohammad Dawood Wassl
Mohammad Dawood Wassl considers photography an important way to express himself and reflect the aspects of people’s lives and activities. “My hope is that my photos will change the way people judge and observe themselves, and alter the negative image that foreigners have of Afghanistan.” His photographs have been published in the Kabul Press and the BBC websites, and he has exhibited his work in Afghanistan and internationally.
Jawad Hamdard Kia
Jawad Hamdard Kia was born in 1986 in Uruzgan province of Afghanistan. Now he is living in Kabul City. Jawad graduated from Daqiqi Balkhi High School in Mazar-e-Sharif in 2004 and then he obtained a BA in Agriculture from Bamyan University, and an associates degree from Erfan institute of Higher Education in computer science. Since Jawad began photography in 2004 his works have been published in magazines, newspapers, calendars, and websites such as BBC and the international journal Adult Education and Development. He is also a member of Afghan Photography Network and www.3rdeye.af. Jawad has a passion for shows the beauty of his country. He believes that by broadcasting only tragedies from Afghanistan, the world misses out on discovering the beauty of its many unique places, and the rich culture of today that is steeped in history. Sharing his photography through the media is his contribution to understanding and dialogue between the nations of the world.
Hadi Morawej was forced to flee Afghanistan as a young boy and lived in Iran during the Taliban regime. Here he took up photography at the age of 18 with a Zenit 122 camera. He now resides in Afghanistan again and is an active freelance photographer while also working as a graphic designer.
Fardin Waezi began exploring photography at a young age, expressing life and hardship of the Afghan people through his photographs. After the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001 Fardin Waezi joined the photojournalism course at the Afghan Media and Culture Centre (AINA). Since his graduation Fardin Waezi has joined AINA as an instructor and trained over 60 students the skills and techniques of photojournalism. His work has been published in several magazines and newspapers worldwide, and exhibited internationally. Most recently his work was presented at a solo show at the British Museum in London
Mohammad Reza Sahel
Mohammed Reza Sahel was trained in photography and photojournalism by photographer Najibullah Musafer. He has studied documentary filmmaking and directed his first film in 2010. He has been working as a freelance photographer with clients such as the BBC, Radio of German Voice, and Demo Tex. Najibullah Musafer first started expressing himself through art as an art student at Kabul University where he foremost practiced as a painter. He later developed his photographic skills and techniques with the help of Kate Clarke during the Taliban regime. In 2002 he held a large solo exhibition exploring Afghanistan during the tough years of war. Najibullah Musafer is now the director of 3rd Eye Film and Photojournalism Center and is teaching and conducting photography workshops and independent classes all over Afghanistan. His work has been published in several magazines and exhibited in Afghanistan and internationally.
Nasim Seyamak studied primary and secondary schools in Ghazni province. After the collapse of the Taliban regime, he moved to Kabul and graduated from Habibia High School in 2009. Nasim Seyamak is now studying to become a film director at the Faculty of Fine Arts at Kabul University. He is also an active member of 3rd Eye Film and Photojournalism Centre.
Sulaiman Edrissy is a self-taught photographer and first began his work in 2007 photographing everyday life in Kabul and different provinces in Afghanistan. He believes that people need photography to help them understand what is going on in the world. His goal is to create a large collection of work that presents Afghanistan through the art of photography by showing the natural beauty and the spirit of his country and its people. Sulaiman Edrissy finished a BA in Business Administration in 2011 and is currently working as a project analyst with the Asian Development Bank in Afghanistan.
Jawid Hanan is a student at the Faculty of Fine Arts at Kabul University. In 2007 he studied the basic photography techniques and photojournalism rules at the Afghan Media and Culture Centre (AINA), and in 2012 he attended a one-week workshop with New York Times staff photographer Jan Grarup in Kabul. Hanan is also working for the National Assembly as a photojournalist with the Parliament’s relationship and communication office.
Barat Ali Batoor
The family of Barat Ali Batoor was driven out of Afghanistan during the civil war and most of his ethnic group, the Hazaras, were massacred. He returned to his ancestral country for the first time after September 11, 2001, when the Taliban regime was still in Kandahar despite the U.S. campaign to oust them. After seeing the devastation and destruction of 23 years of war he decided to work for his country and to draw the worlds attention to the plight of the Afghan people and the problems facing the country. He chose photography as his medium of expression and launched his first solo exhibition in 2007. Barat Ali Batoor’s photographs have been internationally exhibited and published in several magazines and newspapers worldwide. He received a photography grant from New York’s Open Society Institute in 2009 and won the Nikon-Walkley Photo of the Year in 2013 where he also won the Best Photo Essay category. Recently Barat Ali Batoor has participated in TED talks in Sydney, Australia.
During the Mujahideen rule, Gulbuddin Elham was a chief photographer for Kabul Weekly, Afghanistan’s first independent newspaper. When the Taliban came to power he fled to Iran and then Pakistan, returning to Afghanistan in 2001. Gulbuddin Elham has spent three years studying under renowned National Geographic photographers Reza and Manoocher Deghati and subsequently began teaching photography courses at AINA Film and Photojournalism Institute. He returned to his position at Kabul Weekly, covering everything from the country’s first presidential election to the daily lives and struggles of the Afghan people. His work has also been published in the New York Times, Reuters, Harvard’s Neimen Reports, and many other publications. In 2013 he was awarded the prestigious Open Society Institute Documentary Photography Grant for his photo essay about Afghan Hindus and Sikhs.
Fraidoon Poya graduated from the Journalism Faculty of Herat, Afghanistan in 2007. He has since 2004 been documenting different aspects of Afghanistan as a reporter and photographer, exploring subjects such as poverty, violence, gender norms and stereotypes. Fraidoon Poya is currently a photographer and public information officer with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). After participating in two photography training workshops organized by UNAMA in 2011 and 2012, he now conducts photojournalism workshops for university students. Fraidoon Poya has worked as a reporter, photographer, and camera man for the Associated Press from 2006 – 2010, and for Agence France-Presse from 2004 - 2006. His work has been exhibited in Afghanistan and internationally.
Basir Seerat is an important voice in social art, media and human rights activities in Afghanistan. Seerat has used photography and documentary film as his form of expression. His documentary film “Little Afghanistan” and “Bird Street is My Home” were shown at the DOK Leipzig international festival for documentary films, and at Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany. In recent years Basir Seerat has experienced being attacked and terrorized several times and was kidnapped by the Taliban in 2004. After escaping the Taliban he continued his work in media, human rights, and arts and culture and has been playing an important role in the development of governance and democracy in Afghanistan. In 2012 he received his first award as human rights artist and activist from the Image and Voice of Hope Organization in New York. Basir Seerat´s photographic and cinematic work has been exhibited widely in Afghanistan and abroad.
Rada Akbar has always expressed herself through art. She first started as a painter but then gained interest in documenting everyday life of the Afghan people with her camera. Rada Akbar has made two documentary films exploring the life and hardships of Afghan women. Her documentary film Shattered Hopes was selected for the Panorama Hindukusch Film Festival in Cologne, Germany in 2009. Her photographic and art work has been exhibited internationally.
At the age of 8 Hanifa Alizada was forced to flee Afghanistan with her family and migrated to Iran. In Iran, Afghan children were deprived of receiving further education than the seventh grade, so after the US intervention in 2002 Hanifa Alizada and her family returned to Afghanistan in search for better educational opportunities. She finished her high school education and enrolled at the Beaconhouse National University (BNU) in Pakistan, which allowed her to experiment with different art forms. It was here her interest in photography as an art form caught her attention. Hanifa Alizada is a lecturer at the Faculty of Fine Arts at Kabul University and teaches photography workshops. Her work has been internationally exhibited, and she has participated in the World Bank’s Imagining Our Future Together exhibition. She is the winner of the Redirecting: East artist residency in Warsaw, Poland, 2013.
Amina Hassani’s father was killed by the Taliban during the war and her mother died soon after, which left Amina Hassani alone with her younger brother. Perhaps this is the reason she became interested in politics and fearlessly explains her views. She has a special eye for portraiture and daily life and through her pictures, she tells the story of the remote province of Bamyan. Amina Hassani became a member of 3rd Eye Photojournalism Centre after completing a three-month training program in Bamyan.
Roqia Alavi lived as a refugee in Iran until she was 16 years old. In 2002, upon the collapse of the Taliban, the family returned to the Mazar Sharif province in Afghanistan. It was after being given a photography training workshop by her husband, that she started a new life with photography. She believes that photography can initiate a revolution and lead to greater social transformations. She wishes to contribute to a more diverse image of Afghanistan that focuses less on the negative aspects on which foreign media usually report. Unlike many other women of her time she does not want to stay silent because silence leads to being trapped, she says.
After finishing primary school, Abdullah Shayagan enrolled in the English Literature Department of Bamyan University. Together with fellow college students, Shayagan established the Kanon Daneshjoyee Tafahom (Students Understanding Centre), a center for civil and social training. His interest in photography began during a three months journalism training program, which inspired him to enroll in the 3rd Eye photojournalism-training program in Bamyan. He is now an active member of 3rd Eye and his work has been exhibited in Afghanistan and abroad. Shayagan hopes that in the future he will be able to mix media with social activism.
During the Taliban regime, Zekria Gulistani and his family migrated to Pakistan where he achieved his primary and secondary education. In 2002 the family returned to Afghanistan and Zekria Gulistani completed his higher education. In 2009 he joined the Afghan Media and Culture Centre, AINA. After completing a line of different photography courses and workshops he got his first job as a staff photographer for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Zekria Gulistani currently works for Kabul Weekly, an independent Afghan newspaper, and has exhibited his photographs internationally.
Mumtaz kahn Chopan
During the civil war, Mumtaz Khan Chopan and his family left Afghanistan and moved to Pakistan. Here he completed his primary education at Noor School and several years later secondary school at Gawharshad High School. Already as a teenager, Mumtaz discovered his talent and interest in art and painting, and he is now studying at the Faculty of Fine Arts at Kabul University. He has participated in a number of group exhibitions in Afghanistan.
Mohammed Ibrahim Wahid
Mohammed Ibrahim Wahid returned to Afghanistan in 2002 after having fled to Peshawar, Pakistan. He started out as a self-taught photographer but in 2010 he enrolled in the journalism course at Ibn-e Sina University in Kabul, where he kept an emphasis on photography and storytelling. Mohammed Ibrahim Wahid runs a photo-based website and the photoblog Kabul My Capital. Here he aims to show a different face of Afghanistan, that does not focus on roadside and suicide bombings
After finishing his education Sadeq Naseri returned to Afghanistan when the civil war ended. As a journalist for radio Seda-e-Javan in Bamyan, Naseri provided written and oral news despite the extreme social and security problems. The experience made him confident enough to deal with serious political issues
Reza Sepehri was only a small child when the civil war forced him and his family to flee the country and migrate to Iran. Unlike most other Afghan refugees in Iran, Reza Sepehri completed his schooling in the best Iranian state schools. He returned to Afghanistan in 2010 with a degree in electrical engineering and started working for the national media. He got into photography after attending some photography- and film production courses arranged by 3rd Eye Film and Photojournalism Centre and Afghan Cultural House. Soon after he joined 3rd Eye and started working as technical manager and photographer. Since 2010 he has been traveling to Afghanistan’s provinces and rural areas to provide photographs for national and international organizations. Sepehri’s work has been internationally exhibited.
Looking through the images from Afghan Tales it becomes obvious that each of the photographers has their own approach. Some use a documentary style approach to investigate the everyday life of the Afghan people. These images portray people getting on with their lives, working, shopping, enjoying leisure time or attending family gatherings and so forth, in a calm and relaxed matter that lets the viewer experience a sense of normality. Other photographers work within the genre of press photography, covering both the armed conflict as well as a multitude of public events such as sporting events, festivals and public gatherings of different kinds that all take part in constituting contemporary Afghan society and culture.
The photographs show the development from snowy white atmospheric winter landscapes to lush green summer days and children swimming in the rivers, which give an impression of a country with a lot to offer and of strong personal memories.
Other photographers focus on Afghanistan’s vast and dramatic landscape through areal views of green mountains, blue rivers, and golden dessert cities. These photographs show both infrastructural views of transport systems and cityscapes, as well as a more poetic view on the natural resources of the country and how the Afghan people both use and enjoy them.
In the artistic end of the specter, some of the photographers work on a more conceptual level, to consider ideas of identity, gender, and rights. Some include objects, writing, documents and clothing items in their images to create their own visual language that tells their personal stories of what it is like to be young in Afghanistan right now. Some of the photographs focus specifically on gender and take on a performative character to explore the physical and bodily experience of what it is like to be a woman in Afghanistan today.