Constance Wyndham, Assistant Exhibition Curator
Last week we installed Afghanistan Now: Photographs by Fardin Waezi, a display of photographs by this talented Afghan photographer, in the Clore Foyers underneath the Great Court in the British Museum. This display is part of a wider programme of events surrounding the exhibition Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World.
Fardin’s images reveal many sides of life in Afghanistan that are rarely seen, from an all girl football team to a fishmonger showing off his catch in the market. Photography is the most developed of the visual arts in Afghanistan. The relentless spotlight of the media on Afghanistan has created great opportunities for photographers and film makers to publish their work internationally. Afghan photographers often have the best access to people and news stories, and can travel anonymously. This constant demand for pictures of a country in transition has meant that photography and film have both flourished there since 2001.
Fardin took his first photograph in his father’s studio in Kabul when he was seven years old. His father used a traditional box camera to photograph people in the street, and under the Taliban Fardin worked with him as a street photographer. During this time, the photography of people was banned and as a keen photographer, Fardin was arrested several times for ‘photography related crimes’. After the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Fardin joined the newly established AINA (Afghan Media and Culture Centre) in Kabul and studied photojournalism. Since then, his work has been published internationally by Der Spiegel, Le Point, Le Nouvel Observateur, Le Figaro, The New York Times, Le Monde, Associated Press and CNN. Fardin runs photojournalism courses for the next generation of Afghan photographers at AINA and he is currently the official photographer for UNAMA (United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan).
Creating an independent media is an important part of the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan. Reza Deghati, an Iranian photographer, set up a photojournalism department in 2001 for the newly established AINA (Afghan Media and Culture Centre) in Kabul. AINA provides training for young Afghan photographers who are now gaining reputations as some of Afghanistan’s best photographers, including Fardin Waezi, Wakil Kohsar, Farzana Wahidy, Massoud Hosseini, and Gulbuddin Elham.
Many internationally renowned photographers and photojournalists who have visited Afghanistan have run workshops and training programmes for the country’s aspiring photographers. In 2010, British photographer Simon Norfolk ran workshops in Kabul for Fardin Waezi and other photographers. Their work was shown in Views of Kabul (6 – 28 March, 2011) an exhibition of photography at the Queen’s Palace, Bagh e Babur, Kabul.
Afghanistan Now: Photographs by Fardin Waezi is on display until 10 June 2011 and is part of the World Collections Programme which aims to establish partnerships across the world and increase access to the UK collections and expertise.