Afghanistan is a land which has not been segregated from the art and artists in the history. From the cultural point of view, educated artist lovers, kings, scholars, wise and percipient people of this eastern territory has the luminous achievements.  Per credible documentations, in the world the first oil painting arts were spotted on the walls of ancient Aryana. Kabul museum is an ample example, which is one of the priceless art centers of its current period in the area. Nevertheless, the art of photography such as other genres of the art had its own zenith and efflorescence in this territory. The photograph of the statue which was taken by Zahir shah in one of his trips to the north of Afghanistan had caused the marvelous discovery of ancient and historical piece by the name of “Aykhanom”.

Through the ages in Afghanistan the photographers and photos were honored and valued by the people and specifically by the superior authorities of the government.  For example, Amir Habibullah Khan was lover of the photography. And also,  Amanullah khan after one of his trips to Europe not only added up some of the photographs into his album but also brought a camera with himself to his country. Unfortunately, the consecutive wars had hindered the progress in art, specially the last three decades that the foreigners came for the photography of battlefield which lacked the artistic and educational aspects of photography.

If we recall the memory from the history of photography in Afghanistan, the first photograph in the history of Afghanistan belongs to “John Burk” which has the reflection of Amir Ali khan’s image.  And Amir Habibullah Khan was one of the first photographers of Afghanistan. Therefore, the first photographs were published on the newspapers in his own period.  After him, in the period of Amanullah Khan the photography has peaked its excellence, where the first photographs of women were taken in their Europe tours, including, Soraya the queen and Noorul Saraj who had semi-silky-veil on their faces. In addition, the photograph of Abdul Khalid, the murderer of Nadir Shah which had been taken by an Afghan photographer indeed. Simultaneously, during the period of Zahir Shah,

 The first fast cameras or the wooden box cameras were imported to Afghanistan.  In fact, this was the period when the cameras were used by the photographers of the city not only in the palace but also for different purposes such as, official documents, mementos and artistry. Based upon the available sources, the first photojournalist who taught photography academically in Kabul University was named Abdul Hamid Fayaz who had active participation in this major whose name is also mentioned in magazines and some other publications.

In 1994 when Taliban came into power, the photography, cinema and art was banned throughout the city. From that moment all the national identity cards of females and newspapers were published without photos. Fortunately, after the fall of Taliban’s regime, soon the first dark room in Kabul University was created by Masood Kamandi, the photographer.  In no time, the photography institution (media center of Ayna ) was established in Afghanistan by the efforts of Reza Deqati.

Masoud Hosaini is the well-known figure of Afghanistan in photojournalism that in 2011, he was honored by the “Politzer” award.

Farzana Wahidy, the initiative female professional photographer who was a prominent member of Ayna institution was entitled by many international awards after the fall of Taliban’s regime.

Najibullah Musafir, who got his graduation in faculty of fine arts from Kabul University during the period of communism regime, had his first photographs’ exhibition in 2002 after the fall of Taliban’s regime. He, who has also established the field of photography in Kabul University.

Within last few years, the generation of alumni after completion of their education from abroad universities and also the presence of some foreigners in the country caused dramatic and appreciative change in the image of photography in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, the ground is not paved well for the improvement and capacity building of the photographers where they could express themselves through their arts. However, the Third eye Photojournalism center, France culture center in Kabul, Afghanistan culture house, center of contemporary arts and some other institutions are active in Kabul, but in Kabul photography galleries, exhibition centers, international markets, educational and learning centers of photography, solidarity and union of photographers and also getting license for the profession almost aren’t available.

Other weaknesses in the arena of photography can be lack of professional photographers of various genres. Most of the photographers in this country have tendency toward documentary-orientation and photojournalism. Some other popular photographers are: Basir seerat, Fatima Hussaini, Mohammad Shaida, Farshad Osyan, Murtaza Herati, Arif Karimi and Rada Akber and …

Whereas, for some foreigners photographers, Afghanistan’s war became subject of their photography and through which some of them got fame globally. 

For instance, Steve McCurry, the national geographic channel photographer who is one of the most renowned photographers of all time that his popularity began when he took a photograph of an Afghan kid in refugee camp in Pakistan. As it was published as a cover photo on national geographic magazine which was one of the transmitted photographs from Afghanistan.

David Beckett is also a well-known German photographer who had taken photographs from Afghanistan. From Iranian photographers, Majid saeedi can be named who has eye-catching photographs of Afghanistan and his own life. Therefore many other photographers are there whose fame and popularity is because of the Afghanistan’s battlefield.

In the present time focusing on expansion of media, research and education, there are many young and professional photographers who definitely can have remarkable breakthroughs and can stand-out through any mean.    

About Author

Fatimah Hossiani is an Afghan artist and photographer with degree in photography from University of Tehran with specialization in staged photography. In her work she focuses on women and femininity. Fatimah also performs visual arts wherein herself acts as the main subject. So far her work has been featured in many international and local newspapers and magazines.