We hear a lot about Afghanistan these days, and most of it is about war, hatred, Islam this or Islam that, soldiers dying on both sides, while civilians carry on suffering as they have done since time immemorial.
At one time, Afghanistan was almost an up and coming place, speedily rushing to join with the most modern European states. That was due to their leader at that time, Amir Amanullah, who was bringing in revolutionary changes so that his country could align itself with Europe and the western world.
Unfortunately, his changes were too fast, as the people revolted, not wishing to come out of their centuries old customs and ways, and his plans and dreams came to an end, taken over by war and more strife.
But, if we ignore politics and war, there are some interesting things going on there, especially in the field we are always talking about here, photography.
For a long time, people have been using a very simple form of photography to make a living. The cameras they use are home-made and hand crafted, using materials that are to hand.
And the wonderful thing about it is that these cameras are self-contained, with no need for a darkroom to develop and print the photos….the customer just has to wait a few minutes, perhaps sipping a cup of hot tea or coffee that the photographer also sells, and his photo is ready for him.
As is always the case in such a country that has fanatics as well as moderate people living there, this too was seized upon by the ruling parties, and at one time it was banned, as according to their own version of religion, showing images of people or animals is forbidden! So for a while, these cameras and their owners disappeared or changed to other ways of making money.
Now, the word is that these photographers are back and their cameras can be seen at every street corner. This has to be a good thing.
I had heard of these guys from a chap I met in India, just over the border almost, who had been to Afghanistan on business, but advised me not to visit, as tensions were still palpable there due to the American and UK armies presence, etc.
So in order to find out more about these photographers, I took to the internet, and there I found a wealth of material. Instead of typing out everything from those sites, I’m going to leave you with a link here that you can follow and read at your leisure.
I’m trying to build such a camera myself and once it’s complete, I’ll post my results on this blog…unless of course, one of you beats me to it, in which case, please do let me know and if you wish, I’ll post your photos on here for you.