Photo: Zekria Gulistani
Balloons and Bodybuilders: A Fresh Look at Modern Afghanistan
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Balloons and Bodybuilders: A Fresh Look at Modern Afghanistan

By Photo: Zekria Gulistani

Mention Afghanistan and most people immediately think of destruction, soldiers, and bloodshed. Afghan Tales, a traveling photo exhibition supported by the Danish organization Commerce and Culture, aims to counter those connotations with images of daily life in the war-torn country. The project features a selection from over 25 Afghan photojournalists and artists, and constitutes one of the most extensive displays of Afghan photography to date.

Aref Karimi
The Jihad Museum is located in the western provincial capital of Herat in Afghanistan. It was built in 2010 as a place for Afghans to understand past conflicts and their history.

 

Hadi Morawej
Members of the Afghanistan Astronomy Association visit schools to organize activities like sun observation. Most schools still have very limited access to resources.

The goal of the exhibit is to shift the focus of photography in Afghanistan to incorporate depictions of normalcy and to present a more nuanced portrait of today’s Afghanistan to an international audience. In the vein of projects like Everydayafrica (a collection of images shot on mobile phones showing daily life throughout the African continent), this project aims to counter the one-dimensional vision of the country. 

 

Fardin Waezi
A bodybuilding competition at the Areyub Cinema in the western part of Kabul city. Hundreds of competitors enter the annual contest.

The juxtapositions in the photographs reveal the contraditions and singularities of Afghanistan: It is a land where women wear burqas, but occasionallyliterallykick up their heels, where men install a satellite dish for an outdoor television, where a man carrying bright balloons whizzes past an abandoned palace.  

Fardin Waezi
An Afghan family installs a television antenna in the Shohada-I-Sahliheen, a southern port of Kabul city.
 
Najibullah Musafer
A girl on the swings.
 
 
Kamran Shefayee
Shia Muslims in Kabul flagellate themselves to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, grandson of Muhammad.
 
 
Rada Akbar
A man selling balloons cycles past a young boy and abandoned palace.
 
Fraidoon Poya
Afghan girls practice martial arts (Osho) in the Enjil district of the western Afghan province of Herat. Since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, the number of Afghan girls participating in sports has increased greatly.
 
Golbedin Elham
Afghan boys stare up at posters of actresses and singers.

This spectrum of images make up modern-day Afghanistan, offering a fresh look at the country. 

Maïa Booker is the photo editor at The New Republic. Follow Maïa @maiabooker.
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