Afghanistan is one of those far away countries that we hear about in the nightly news. It seems very far away as I sit in the safety and comfort of my own home, snuggled up with my dog and a cup of tea. What I know of Afghanistan is the media’s portrayal of the country, war torn since the invasion in 2001. As Westerners, all we see are images of soldiers, tanks and people grieving their dead. A group of Afghan photographers have now invited us to see Afghanistan differently.
Afghan Tales is a group exhibition by 30 Afghan photographers ranging from internationally featured photojournalists to artists working in photography to show us what Afghanistan looks like through the eyes of an Afghan photographer.
Afghan Tales invites us to see a different Afghanistan – a country of surprising complexity, contrast, and change. Traditional, yet modern. Destroyed, yet whole. Grieving, yet optimistic.
For millions of lives in Afghanistan, these contrasts are documented in the exhibition of a country that is changing in the aftermath of war, a country influenced heavily still by tradition and influence. Having to rebuild their entire lives in the last 10 years, the city of Kabul and it’s 4.5 million people are slowly beginning to reemerge from the everyday joys that were banned by the Taliban: taking pictures, eating out and dancing and singing at weddings.
“Lively markets and traffic jams fill the avenues under the mountains. Brick factory fires are burning around the clock to meet demands for new houses. Children are returning to school and in 2004 women were allowed to vote for the very first time in the country’s first democratic election.”
Afghan Tales shows us the contrasts in the everyday lives of the Afghani people. Burka covered women are wearing heels, a balloon salesman carrying shiny, colored balloons passes by an old, abandoned palace, ‘Afghan Star,’ a TV show searching for talented singers is experiencing tremendous success, while people debate about stoning. The longing for fame and fortune is ever present in the Afghani people.
As such there are definite signs of progress, but in a country as complex as Afghanistan not all is what it seems. There is a remarkable disparity between the apparent improvements and the struggles still going on behind the scenes.
The Afghan Tales project is a selection of the best of Afghan contemporary photography. It’s an independent project initiated by Commerce & Culture who has been working with promotion and talent development of Afghan photographers since 2010 though the establishment of Afghan Photography Network, A.P.N.
The exhibition will travel Europe and the United States over a 36-month period starting in March 2014. In the US, Afghan Tales is represented by Munch Gallery.
CREDITS: Photographs from the Afghan Tales project are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.