In pictures: Afghan box camera

Published
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Since May 2011, Austrian artist Lukas Birk and Irish ethnographer Sean Foley have been researching the rapidly disappearing culture of Afghanistan's street photographers.
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Travelling to Kabul, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad, and Peshawar in Pakistan, Birk and Foley were invited by photographers into their homes and studios to be mentored in the use of a simple wooden camera known in Dari (Afghan Persian) as the kamrae e-faoree.
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Hand-made out of wood, the kamrae e-faoree is both camera and darkroom. It has been used in the region for years and generations of Afghans have had their portraits taken with it.
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The camera is completely manual - it does not use electricity - the photographic process is analogue using chemicals and paper rather than film.
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Under Taliban rule, photography was banned along with television, music and cinema, forcing many photographers to hide or destroy their cameras.
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"Foreseeing the changing times, one photographer in Herat, Hekmatullah Arbabzadeh, began to amass a collection of kamra-e-faoree photographs after 2001, mostly portraits of schoolchildren from in and around the city. He calls them his “treasures," said Birk and Foley.
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Other photos unearthed in the project include this example of a hand-painted portrait taken by Abdul Samad of his family - his mother sits in the centre. The photo is from a family album belonging to his son, Abul Satar. The album was kept safe during the civil war and safely hidden during Taliban rule by Abdul Satar’s aunt.
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Afghan Box Camera by Lukas Birk and Sean Foley is published by Dewi Lewis Publishing.

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