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THE EXHIBITION


The touring exhibition Afghan Tales presents a new perspective on the complexities of contemporary Afghanistan, introducing a strong selection of some of the best contemporary Afghan photography.

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THE EXHIBITION


The touring exhibition Afghan Tales presents a new perspective on the complexities of contemporary Afghanistan, introducing a strong selection of some of the best contemporary Afghan photography.

Seeing Afghanistan through the eyes of more then 20 Afghan photographers enables a rarely achieved intimate presence in moments, processes, and conflicts in both public and private spheres, bringing a sensitivity to the significance of everyday life and the conditions formative to their strategies and events.

The confidentiality Afghan photographers behold with their own cultures and social codes, provides them with a privileged position that enables access to otherwise closed circles. Furthermore, their longterm observations and involvement entails a different sensibility towards the less spectacular stories that, although difficultly sold to international newsrooms and editorials, can still be hugely formative to Afghan life. Operating as a photographer in Afghanistan is far from risk-free and several of the photographers in the Afghan Tales exhibition have first-handedly experienced the unsafe terrain of photographic practice, receiving death threats, beeing put under arrest, kidnapped, and even forced into exile.

 The Afghan Tales exhibition has a truly kaleidoscopic character, embracing contradictory stances as readily as the power of the autonomous narrative of a single image or a conceptually conceived series. Approaching contemporary Afghan photography entails engagement with a multitude of artistic expressions as well as a multitude of personal stories and attitudes towards what Afghan photography is and should be. It is from this copious position that Afghan Tales invites its audience along to an intimate and surprising meeting with a different and more diverse kind of Afghanistan than is normally showed.


Artist Spotlight: Barat Ali Batoor

The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan, 2010

Bacha baazi is the name of a cultural tradition of young boys, dressed as women, dancing for men as entertainment. The dancing boys are called bacha bereesh (boys without beards). A young boy will live in the keep of a powerful man and he will dress as a woman and dance for parties of men. Many times he will also be sexually exploited. Many years of war have caused a breakdown in Afghan society and an abuse of power by those in control. The tradition of bacha baazi has become increasingly more common and many young boys are kidnapped and abducted into the practice. Homeless children and orphans are especially vulnerable.


It is not easy to be a photographer in Afghanistan and you face a lot of problems. You are covering different stories, and if that story goes against some particular group, or some powerful people, then you are in trouble. It is the survival of the fittest, those who have power will survive.
— Barat Ali Batoor
From the series "The Dancing Boys" - Barat Ali Batoor

From the series "The Dancing Boys" - Barat Ali Batoor


ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Rada Akbar

Invisible Captivity, 2013

This collection represents women who live in Afghanistan. My work express how their most basic rights are denied in a country, where religion and politics are mixed and, according to Sharia law, women have no rights or authority over their existence. They are treated like property; they can't get married without the permission of male relatives, and if they have children, they don't have legal custody of them. 

From the series "Invisible captivity" - Rada Akbar

From the series "Invisible captivity" - Rada Akbar

As a female Afghan artist I am responsible for serving my people and convincing our society that Afghan women are in the position to work in this field and gain achievements
— Rada Akbar

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Mohamed ibrahim wahid

A FRIENDLY MOMENT, 2012

These gentlemen, like hundreds of other disabled people, come to Kabul Orthopaedic Centre from time to time to repair or completely replace their artificial body parts. They sit in the proofing room to check the functionality of their legs. Disability in Afghanistan is a result of 30 years of civil war, Russian invasion and military interference of NATO and the Allies.

’I like assignments that involve the general population and daily life, because there is life behind it. (...)
Yes, there is war, poverty and corruption in Afghanistan, no one can deny that, but there is also a normal daily life and good things are happening too
— Mohammed Ibrahim Wahid
"A friendly moments" Mohammed Ibrahim Wahid

"A friendly moments" Mohammed Ibrahim Wahid

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THE STORY OF AFGHAN TALES


How Afghan Tales has become one of the largest dynamic archives on contemporary Afghan photography.

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THE STORY OF AFGHAN TALES


How Afghan Tales has become one of the largest dynamic archives on contemporary Afghan photography.

The exhibition Afghan Tales has its roots in a project established in 2011 aimed at professionalising and supporting a revitalisation of Afghan photography. Upon the initiative of the Danish Centre for Culture and Development and the Danish Embassy in Kabul, the socioeconomic company Commerce & Culture was invited to design and manage a four year project with the objective of developing and implementing a strategy to help professionalise Afghan photography. 

Commerce & Culture engaged in a long research process locating the widely dispersed and often difficultly reached community of photographers in Afghanistan. Due to insecure conditions for copyright many photographers were reluctant to present their work online, just as the ban on photography imposed by the ousted Taliban regime still left the general safety situation for photographers somewhat uncertain.

Through this investigative process Commerce & Culture gained a unique access and insight into contemporary Afghan photography and in 2013 established the Afghan Photography Network in collaboration with Kabul based 3rd Eye Photojournalism Centre. As Commerce & Culture became more deeply acquainted with contemporary Afghan photography and the cultural diversity it conveys, contemplations began of how to make this available to a wider international audience. In 2014 Afghan Tales was created as an independent project run by Commerce & Culture. 

The network and collaborative efforts that Commerce & Culture established during the project in Afghanistan form the basis for the extensive archive from which the Afghan Tales exhibition is composed. Several thousand photographs are already in the archive with regular new additions coming in which makes Afghan Tales one of the largest dynamic archives on contemporary Afghan photography. It includes a variety of practices and themes and appoints importance both to technical excellence and to the strength of the story and circumstances of the photograph alike. As such, Afghan Tales offers a kaleidoscopic perspective on contemporary Afghan society and presents a broad take on Afghan photography itself.

 

Download a free digital copy of the exhibition catalogue to learn even more about Afghan Tales