Photographers' Blog

Hip, young and in Kabul

Kabul, Afghanistan
By Morteza Nikoubazl

Kabul is a bustling city, full of people who want to see their country become less violent and more stable.

As I documented life in the capital this month, I met lots of young people who shared their thoughts about the future of Afghanistan: painters, actors, musicians, even a rapper.

Afghan music students looks on as they participate a music training session in a cultural and educational center in Kabul, March 7, 2014. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

Many had once lived as refugees in my home country, Iran, and some were even born there. But now they were back in their troubled homeland, Afghanistan.

I asked them what made them decide to come back to Afghanistan, a country that is far from being safe or comfortable. The nation has lived through decades of war and violence after the Soviet invasion of 1979, civil war, militant rule and the U.S.-led invasion of 2001. Now Afghanistan is preparing for an election on April 5, it has been hit by a new wave of violence from Taliban militants who want to disrupt the vote.

Afghan men outside the education ministry building in Kabul, March 8, 2014. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

In addition to this, people face practical problems. One person I met told me that sometimes, especially during the winter, electricity outages here can last up to 12 hours a day.

Inside Kabul’s theaters

By Danish Siddiqui

I believe that sometimes you learn about a city and its society from its local cinemas and the genre of films they choose to screen.

Coming from the heart of the Indian film industry in Mumbai, popularly known as Bollywood, I had no idea what to expect from the cinemas in Kabul. I had several questions on my mind. Did families go out to watch films or was it only a getaway for men? Is watching films at the cinema as popular as it is in other parts of the world? What kind of films entice the Afghan cinema-goer?

There are only half a dozen cinemas in the whole of Kabul. Most of the theaters like Cinema Park and Ariana Cinema were destroyed during the civil war and were later shut down by the Taliban who had banned, among other things, going to the movies. Now every theater has three films shown every day with the first one starting at 10a.m.

Are you ready for your embed?

By Umit Bektas

When I was informed of the date from which I was to be embedded with a U.S. military unit in Afghanistan, I luckily had enough time to prepare. I felt I had to plan everything before I left so I drew up a “to do” list. A major item on the list was the packing of my bags.

I knew I should carefully plan what I was to take. I knew I should travel light but at the same time have everything I would need on hand. Given the nature of the assignment and the conditions in Afghanistan, it would probably be impossible to secure anything I may have left behind. Fearing that my own list may be lacking some essentials, I contacted Kabul-based Ahmad Masood and other Reuters photographers who had been embedded before me. Masood, most likely the recipient of many such queries before, promptly sent back a comprehensive document he had prepared with a list of what I needed to take with me as well as other useful information. Along with other details from colleagues, I then knew exactly what I needed to take with me.

The first priority was the security equipment – body armor and helmet. Without them in your number one bag, you can not be embedded. So I put these two items in a separate bag.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A week in pictures 14 August 2011

This week Pakistan marked its day of independence from British rule with parades, parties, face painting and bombs.  Two pictures of faces covered in colour, one paint, the other blood, seems to sum up all there needs to be said about the national pride Pakistan feels while facing so many challenges. Visually the complementary colours of green and red (colours on opposite sides of the colour spectrum) make the pictures jump out of the page especially when put side by side. The angry eye staring out of the face of green in Mohsin Raza's picture engages the viewer full on while in Amir Hussain's picture the man seems oblivious of his wound as blood covers his face, again more opposites, this time not in colour but mood. India too is preparing to celebrate its independence and Dehli-based photographer Parivartan Sharma's picture of festival preparations came to mind after I put together the red-and-green combination picture from Pakistan.  

 

(top left) A man, with his face painted depicting the colours of the Pakistan national flag, attends a ceremony to mark the country's Independence Day at the Wagah border crossing with India on the outskirts of Lahore August 14, 2011. Pakistan gained independence from British rule in 1947. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza

A man, his face bloodied by a head injury, is held by a resident as he waits to be evacuated from the site of a bomb blast in Dara Allah Yar, located in the Jaffarabad district of Pakistan's Balochistan province, August 14, 2011. A bomb ripped through the two-story building in Pakistan's restive southwest on Sunday, killing at least 11 people and wounding nearly 20, police said. REUTERS/Amir Hussain 

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures 7 August 2011

After rioting in Xinjiang left 11 dead at the start of Ramadan the Chinese authorities stated that the insurgents who started the trouble had fled to Pakistan. Security forces quickly deployed in numbers to ensure that any further trouble was prevented or quickly quelled. Shanghai-based Carlos Barria travelled to Kashgar to shoot a story on the renovation of the old Kashgar centre, an example of China's modernising campaign in minority ethnic regions. A busy week for Aly Song, who is also Shanghai based, with taxi drivers on strike over rising fuel costs while Lang Lang had local fishermen preparing for typhoon Muifa to hit. In both pictures, the eye is cleverly drawn  to the distance to show in one image, a line of  striking taxi drivers, and in the other, rows of boats bracing for the imminent typhoon.

Ethnic Uighur men sit in front of a television screen at a square in Kashgar, Xinjiang province August 2, 2011. Chinese security forces blanketed central areas of Kashgar city in the western region of Xinjiang on Tuesday, days after deadly attacks that China blamed on Islamic militants highlighted ethnic tensions in the Muslim Uighur area.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Armed police officers are deployed at a square in Kashgar August 2, 2011. Chinese police have shot dead two suspects being hunted for a deadly attack in the restive western region of Xinjiang, which an exiled regional leader blamed on Beijing's hardline policies towards her people. The two suspects, Memtieli Tiliwaldi and Turson Hasan, were shot by police late on Monday in corn fields on the outskirts of Kashgar city, where on Sunday assailants stormed a restaurant, killed the owner and a waiter, then hacked four people to death, according to the Khasgar government website.  REUTERS/Stringer

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures February 13, 2011

First, congratulations to Pakistan Chief photographer Adrees Latif and Bangladesh based photographer Andrew Biraj for their competition awards this week.  Adrees is the winner of the photojournalism category of the ICP Infinity Awards 2011 for his pictures shoot during the floods in Pakistan last year.  Andrew won third prize in the singles category of daily life in the World Press Photo Awards for his picture of an overcrowded train in Bangladesh.

PAKISTAN-FLOODS/

Marooned flood victims looking to escape grab the side bars of a hovering Army helicopter which arrived to distribute food supplies in the Muzaffargarh district of Pakistan's Punjab province August 7, 2010. Pakistanis desperate to get out of flooded villages threw themselves at helicopters on Saturday as more heavy rain was expected to intensify both suffering and anger with the government. The disaster killed more than 1,600 people and disrupted the lives of 12 million.  REUTERS/Adrees Latif

PHOTOGRAPHY-PRIZE/

An overcrowded train approaches as other passengers wait to board at a railway station in Dhaka, November 16, 2010. Millions of residents in Dhaka are travelling home from the capital city to celebrate the Eid al-Adha holiday on Wednesday. Muslims around the world celebrate Eid al-Adha to mark the end of the haj by slaughtering sheep, goats, cows and camels to commemorate Prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail on God's command. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures January 30, 2011

Even though the world's gaze is firmly focused on the events in Egypt and Tunisia, top stories continue to break in Asia. Last week during my morning call with Enny Nuraheni, our Indonesia Chief Photographer, she told there was a ferry on fire with hundreds on board, a train had crashed and Mount Bromo was spewing ash, all on the same day.  In Japan Mount Kirishima was erupting, thousands of birds culled to try to stop the spread of bird flu and the economy and government were under pressure.  But all Japanese worries were forgotten briefly as Japan beat Australia 1-0 in the AFC Asian Cup final in Doha. 

JAPAN/ 

Volcanic lightning or a dirty thunderstorm is seen above Shinmoedake peak as it erupts, between Miyazaki and Kagoshima prefectures, in this photo taken from Kirishima city and released by Minami-Nippon Shimbun January 28, 2011. Ash and rocks fell across a wide swathe of southern Japan straddling the prefectures of Miyazaki and Kagoshima on Thursday, as one of Mount Kirishima's many calderas erupted, prompting authorities to raise alert levels and call on for an evacuation of all residents within a 2 km (1.2 miles) radius of the volcano. REUTERS/Minami-Nippon Shimbun

Issei Kato's picture of Prime Minister Kan addressing parliament is as frenetic as the politics themselves, while Kim Kyung-Hoon's picture to illustrate the economy perfectly timed as the eye is drawn into the frame by all the elements that appear in to be in choreographed perfection. If the apocalypse is coming it is sure to come in one of two forms; the eruptions of fire, smoke and lightening or the eerie silence of spreading disease. We had two pictures giving us a sneak preview of our potential fate. A wonderful image of the sheer beauty of the power, energy, light and colour of Mount Kirishima erupting and the whisper of deadly fumes as fully masked workers with red and blue targets sprayed on their white overalls, cull the hapless birds.  

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures 21 November 2010

As I write 29 men are trapped in a coal mine in New Zealand after a methane explosion at the Pike River coal mine. Sydney based photographer Tim Wimborne is at the scene. His picture of people hugging each other so tightly seems to sum up the growing despair as they cling to the hope that the men are still alive, the moment in the picture seems to go on an eternity.

tim mine hug

Family members of miners trapped underground in the Pike River coal mine comfort each other in Greymouth on New Zealand's west coast, after visiting the mine to see rescue preparations November 21, 2010. Efforts to rescue 29 men trapped in a New Zealand coal mine faced more agonizing delays on Sunday when authorities said they would drill a new shaft to test air quality because toxic gases made it too dangerous for rescue teams go in. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

Two separate disasters in buildings over the last week took over a hundred lives with police taking action against the property owners in both cases. In Shanghai,  Ali Song shooting pictures that not only convey the drama of the fire but also show the scale of the blaze by showing figures dwarfed by the smoke and flames.  The silent upturned faces of onlookers striking a chill in the heart, a mood created by Aly exposing for the highlights allowing the shadow to fall into almost complete darkness.  

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures, September 19, 2010

This week has seen a dramatic increase in violence and tension throughout much of the Asia region, and  the pictures on the wire reflect this mood. It seems that actions by not only nations, armed groups but individuals have all had a dramatic impact on the mood of the region. The weight of the news feels almost claustrophobic as I try to keep on top of what is happening.

AFGHANISTAN/

U.S. Army soldiers from Delta Company, a part of Task Force 1-66 carry a wounded 7-year-old Afghan boy, a victim of a road side explosion, at their base near the village of Gul Kalacheh, Arghandab River valley, Kandahar province, September 18, 2010.  REUTERS/Oleg Popov

On the surface of it the parliament elections can only be good news for the people of Afghanistan, but 16 hours spent live blogging pictures with our team of 18 journalists, watching the minute by minute developments made me wonder about  the timing of this election as different groups tried to impose their influence on the outcome through violence and fraud.  Attacks by the Taliban killed 14 who were directly involved in the polling process. A radio commentator I was listening to assured his listeners that this death toll was part of normal daily life in Afghanistan and should not be seen to reflect election violence, I was not cheered by this. Oleg's picture above seems to bear this out; does it really matter what the motivation was behind the blast as the boy writhes in agony, his blood stained hands trembling and clawing at his bandaged head. If the election had not gone ahead would he still have been injured?  Even Masood's picture below of the election worker and the donkey struggling through the mountains seem to reflect the uphill battle the whole country has to face. Ink being washed off fingers so voters could vote and vote again; fraudulent voting cards printed and who knows what amount of ballot box stuffing will take place  before the final count is revealed late October; all of which seem to undermine the democratic process. Who wants to be ruled by leaders who have gained power through corruption - notably the only political point the Taliban make.

The driver saw it first …

Often in our job as photographers we are totally dependent on drivers. Back in 2004, I was on assignment in Kabul, Afghanistan for the first time and came to appreciate just how important a good driver can be, especially in a place like that where your life can depend on it.

The driver in question was Omar Sobhani, one of the Reuters drivers in our Afghanistan operation.

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When I first met him, this good, solid, bearded man with lively eyes, was fluent in Russian, Urdu, Hindi, Pashtun but no English whatsoever; as I had no idea of Russian, Urdu, Hindi and Pastun our conversations were limited and hilarious to anyone else listening, but somehow despite this,  right from the very first moment, we understood each other.

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