Images are a very important part of our lives. It is images that keep us informed about the events happening in the world. People are almost obsessed with images in today’s society. There are social networking sites that simply cannot be functioned without the use of images, for example Facebook and Instagram.
As an observer I have come to a conclusion that people are obsessed with social networking sites like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter purely because it gives them a sense of importance with all the likes they receive after publishing an image online.
Images of oneself is promoted more than images of real events. Videos and photographs play a major role in the online world, but images that should be given more importance do not receive much attention.
Below are some images I came across online which, as a journalist, I fell in love with and felt the need to share it with those who haven’t already seen them.
Kadir von Lohuizen, November 2001 “It’s November 2001 and the US has started the large offensive to remove the Taliban. The action is in the east around Tora Bora. After arriving in Turkmenistan I take a train to the Afghan border, a very rare glimpse of the Turkmenian country side. I arrive in the city of Herat, far from where the world attention is. I am here to cover what is going on in the western part of the country. The Taliban is gone, but a severe draught is taking a heavy toll. Thousands of people are fleeing not only the violence, but starving and looking for food as well. With all the major developments there is little attention for them. Even when they reach the city, aid takes a long time to arrive in their stomachs. Too few NGOs and an unexplained bureaucracy often lead to a three week waiting time before food rations and blankets are handed out. It’s freezing during the nights and it’s hard to dream about your regained freedoms with an empty stomach.”
Danfung Dennis, July 3, 2009. “Unless you have a personal connection, the war in Afghanistan is an abstraction. After ten years since the initial invasion, the daily bombings and ongoing violence have become mundane, almost ordinary. It is tempting to become indifferent to the horror and pain. It is much easier to look away from the victims. It is much easier to lead a life without rude interruptions from complex insurgencies in distant lands. But it is when we take this easier path [that] the suffering becomes of no consequence and therefore meaningless. The anguish becomes invisible, an abstraction. It is when society becomes numb to inhumanity [that] horror is allowed to spread in darkness. Through my work I hope to shake people from their indifference to war, and to bridge the disconnect between the realities on the ground and the public consciousness at home. By bearing witness and shedding light on another’s pain and despair, I am trying to invoke our humanity and a response to act.”
Jan Grarup, September 18, 2008 “This is from the German base in the outskirts of Faizabad, showing Afghan workers taking cover as a helicopter with German special forces takes off for an operation in the mountains between Faizabad and Kunduz. For me, the image has value because it shows the difference between the local population and the coalition forces in the country. The very different ways we live and the gap in how we understand the country. War is nothing new to the Afghan population—they have lived with it for decades, while for many in the western world it is something very dramatic and serious. We fight for democracy and rights. We want to implement western values into a country which in many ways are (from my point of view) not ready for it. Reality is that it takes years to develop democracy—it needs to be understood and respected before it starts to actually work. For me there is a big gap between the way we operate in Afghanistan and the way people live, and to some extent I don’t really think we understand that. These images show this.”
Emilio Morenatti, October 4, 2004 “It is very difficult for me to choose one single image among the thousands I took during the time I spent on assignment in Afghanistan. I don’t really know whether this photograph represents what is currently happening in Afghanistan—in fact I don’t think one single image would be able to describe the complexity of the current situation in Afghanistan. However I have chosen this photo because it shows something beyond a group of girls watching U.N. workers unloading ballot kits from an helicopter to hold its first direct presidential vote in their remote village. What this photo shows is part of an Afghan generation still free of repression imposed by Taliban rule. You can see how calmly and naturally they react in front of the camera, they don’t flee in fear covering themselves with their veils like girls and women do in other part of the country, they don’t run away from the foreigner photographer—on the contrary, they are absorbed by what is happening in front of them. In spite of living in very poor conditions in an remote village, without running water and electricity, those beautiful girls are relatively fortunate—precisely due to their isolation—compared to most women in the rest of the violence torn Afghanistan.”
Seamus Murphy, November 2001 “A young girl soon after dawn in the village of Ghulam Ali on the Shamali Plain. Fighting between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban, along with massive US air strikes, made the plain a critically dangerous place to live. This image—or maybe this girl—always makes me ask: Who are you? Are you still alive? What are you doing now, 10 years later? Do you still live in Afghanistan? Do you still live in your village on the Shamali Plain, north of Kabul? Are you married? Have you ever seen this photograph? Would you let me photograph you now?”
Eric Bouvet, November 23, 2001 “I was fortunate to be one of the few photographers to be able to return to Afghanistan during the Taliban reign. I escaped many times from my ‘bodyguards’ to try to get some pictures, but I had to return quickly because they were angry and it became dangerous. This time I could photograph what I wanted—a woman in burka in the middle of the ruins of the city center, a symbol of this country. Today, I am on my 13th trip to this country. I’ve seen so many different regimes. The Russian invasion, the Mujahideen, the Afghan communist president, the different factions in power, Massud, Hekmatyar and their wars in Kabul, the Taliban, the international forces… And tomorrow when these forces are gone? I fear for Afghanistan.”
Paula Bronstein, March 1, 2002 “It was barely spring in 2002 but things in Afghanistan were clearly better than now since there was a glimmer of hope for peace with the Taliban ousted from both southern Afghanistan and Kabul. In so many ways it is incredible to me that a decade has passed since the Afghanistan war began. My first trip into the country was in early December, 2001, immediately after the fall of Kandahar. In 2002, Mohboba was only seven years old at the time that I shot this photo. She is now a teenager and I thankfully have survived many trips to the worn torn country witnessing so many changes. I was photographing at this medical clinic doing a feature story on this disfiguring skin disease called Leishmaniasis, a horrible bacterial skin infection caused by tiny sand fleas. When I noticed this little girl standing against this bullet ridden wall, her face was covered with purple iodine used to disinfect the lesions. The rare skin disease plagued the poor who sleep on the ground in unsanitary conditions. Many refugees flooding into Kabul at the time were living in abandoned buildings or tented camps so this story was highlighting some of the health issues. Seeing Mohboba, I thought this image is so incredibly iconic, her spotted face against the war ravaged concrete wall. This photo seemed to say so much about war. I knew that I needed to grab the shot before it disappeared, before she slipped inside the medical clinic or her mother pulled her away. Lucky for me her burqa-clad mother stepped away from the camera quickly but Mohboba kind of froze in her tracks just looking at me rather timidly, covered in rags during a cool, early morning in March. Since then this photograph has remained one of my signature images from my ten years of work Afghanistan, it has been in every exhibit, and still remains as my cover image for my book project on Afghanistan.”
Zalmai, October 2001 “A few weeks after 9/11, I entered Afghanistan from the north to cover the fall of the Taliban. The area was then under the control of the Northern Alliance. Here I was, back in the country of my birth; where I had experienced the Russian invasion as a child. Twenty-one years had passed and this same country was still being ravaged by conflict and another war was just beginning. After days of traveling through the mountains of Hindu Kush on top of a truck, we entered Jabul Saraj on a dusty road leading to Kabul. First I saw the ruins of the buildings and then, the closer we approached, I saw the destroyed artillery and finally, in the middle of a barren, destroyed landscape, an old man with a baby in his arms. I stopped the truck. The thought that struck me was ‘there is nothing left here to destroy. This country, the people, the land, have all been destroyed by more than two decades of war. Even the war machinery in the picture has been destroyed. The only light of hope was the baby in the hands of the old man, the power of life was emerging.’ For years the Afghan people suffered under the Taliban regime to the general indifference of the international community. Then 9/11 happened and the planet suddenly turned its eyes to what was happening in Afghanistan. I will never forget what the old man told me: ‘I hope this time is not again an invasion. I hope this time the people of the planet will help us finish with this nightmare and understand that we are in need of help. So many wars, and I hope not another one.’ Ten years have now passed. I look at this picture now and wonder much truth remains in the image. I could still take this picture in many parts of Afghanistan today. The war is still going on 31 years later and still we forget about the people. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent in war machinery—machinery that destroys and gets destroyed. Against this backdrop, several generations of Afghans have been lost. And as in the image, the old continue to bear the young. Hope is born and yet hope is dying. This picture is my answer to a simple question: ‘What are Afghans and Afghanistan made of?’ If we really want the end of this war, this is what we need to ask more often. We need to recognize their humanity and try to understand, a bit more, its people and the lives and despair that is being thrust upon them.”
Michael Kamber comments on a photograph taken in June, 2008 by Tim Hetherington, who died while on assignment in Libya earlier this year “It’s hard to channel the words of a dead friend. Who knows what a man fallen in battle would have said, especially one as hyper-articulate as Tim Hetherington? Before his death in Libya this past April, Tim and I argued about many things, one of them being the meaning of his photos from Afghanistan of the men of the 173rd Airborne. I was interested in the mechanics of warfare. ‘My photos are not about war,’ he’d say to me–and to anyone else who would listen. ‘They’re about young men.’ Tim was interested in how war changed and molded, traumatized and hardened the soldiers. He was digging deeper—deeper than most of us, anyway. What is the motivation that pushes 20-year-old kids from middle America to go on fighting and dying half way around the world? It was not for their country, nor to avenge 9/11, nor to free the Afghan people, he said, (though all of those things may have been true), but for one simple reason: the bonds the soldiers formed with one another. While many other photojournalists were focused on the guns firing, (the mechanics of war), Tim took pictures of the soldiers asleep in their bunks, (“as their mothers saw them”), playing, teasing, wrestling with one another. He peeled back the uniforms and revealed the young, vulnerable, complex men from middle-America. By coincidence, I was with some of these men from the 173rd Airborne last week. I can tell you that they adored and idolized Tim, the tall, goofy British photographer who lived with them for so many months.”
Yuri Kozyrev, May 2009 “In a conservative country like Afghanistan, being raped can mean a lifetime of shame for the victim and her family. Women almost always prefer to keep silent about the crime. Even discussing the issue of rape is taboo. In fact, a word for rape does not exist in either Dari or Pashto, Afghanistan’s two main languages. Rape has become one of the most widespread wartime crimes in some Afghan provinces. According to women’s rights groups, hundreds of girls, women, and young boys have been sexually assaulted by warlords. In 2009, I accompanied an Italian journalist to the northern province where 39 cases of gang rape had occurred. We met some victims whose families were ready to come forward in order to bring justice. After the story was published, readers donated money to the victims. It was amazing to return six months later. We helped the families to invest the money to help their futures.”