The Spirit of Afghanistan

“A landscape might be denuded, a human settlement abandoned or lost,
but always, just beneath the ground lies history of preposterous grandeur. . .
They are everywhere, these individuals of undaunted humankind,
irrepressibly optimistic and proud.
– The Carpet Wars, Christopher Kremmer

02049_17Kabul

02212_12_es
Bamiyan

“I have the impression that (Afghan) children are
much more excited about going to school than
children in other countries are.  
They think of it as a special privilege.
Going to school, being with other children,
getting books and pencils – all of that is like a dream for them.”  
– Dr. Cheryl Benard, Veiled Courage

AFGHN-10135
Kabul

AFGHN-12772Bamiyan

AFGHN-13707Herat

AFGHN-13080NF2
Near the Afghan/Pakistan border

AFGHN-12883Near the Afghan/Pakistan border

AFGHN-10149
Kabul

AFGHN-10164NF7
Mazar i Sharif

If literacy rates were measured by a nation’s proverbs and poetry,
Afghanistan would be one of the most literate countries on earth.
These two forms of the oral
tradition have been embraced for
centuries and reveal the spirit and soul
of the Afghan people.

AFGHN-10227
Jabal os Saraj

AFGHN-12074NFLake at Band i Amir

AFGHN-12236NF3
Kabul

In Afghanistan, the tradition of poetry writing and recitation dates back a thousand years.
To lend credibility to an argument, the preface,
“The poet says…”   denies the listener the opportunity to disagree.

AFGHN-12348
Pul i Khumri

02211_05_es
Kabul

AFGHN-12350
Maimana

AFGHN-12373NF3
Bamiyan

AFGHN-12906Bamiyan

AFGHN-12691NF2
Kabul

Kabul
Every street of Kabul is enthralling to the eye
Through the bazaars, caravans of Egypt pass
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs
And the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.
– Saeb-e-Tabrizik
Translation by Josephine Davis

AFGHN-12709NF5
Kabul

If my heart trembles
for Kabul,
it’s for the slow step of summer noons,
siestas in my father’s house which,
heavy with mid-day sleep,
still weighs on my ribs…

It’s for the hawker’s cry
of the vegetable seller doing his rounds,
lost in my neighbours’ troubled dreams,
that my heart’s trembling.
– Shakila Azizzda

AFGHN-12909
Bamiyan

AFGHN-14041Bamiyan

In Afghanistan, you don’t understand yourself solely as an individual.
You understand yourself as a son, a brother, a cousin to somebody,
an uncle to somebody.
You are part of something bigger than yourself.
– Khaled Hosseini

Jalalabad, Afghanistan, 1992, AFGHN-10225. Portrait of a man with cloudy beard. MAX PRINT SIZE: 30X40 final print_milan Portraits_Book In The Shadow of the Mountain_Book Looking East_Book PORTRAITS_book PORTRAITS_APP final print_Beetles and Huxley NYC9239, MCS1992006 K103 Retouched_Sonny Fabbri 02/05/2014 MAX PRINT SIZE: 30X40
Jalalabad

 Yet even at their most turbulent, the Afghans have tended to impress
travellers with
their dignity and hospitality as much as their fierce independence.
– William Dalrymple,  author of Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan 1839–42

AFGHN-10242Kandahar

AFGHN-12258_newKandahar

Up to their ankles in mud, villages near Kandahar clear accumulated silt
from a karez, 
or underground channel, an ancient irrigation method.

00113_18, Shia Mosque, Chindawal,Kabul, Afghanistan, 2002. AFGHN-12669. A woman in Afghanistan. retouched_Sonny Fabbri 7/15/2015
Chindawal, Kabul


Please visit Imagine-Asia.net
to see our educational initiatives in Afghanistan.

Instagram.com/imagine_asia

About the author

Steve McCurry has been a one of the most iconic voices in contemporary photography for more than 30 years, with scores of magazine and book covers, over a dozen books, and countless exhibitions around the world to his name.

Born in a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; McCurry studied film at Pennsylvania State University, before going on to work for a local newspaper. After several years of freelance work, McCurry made his first of what would become many trips to India. Traveling with little more than a bag of clothes and another of film, he made his way across the subcontinent, exploring the country with his camera.

It was after several months of travel that he found himself crossing the border into Pakistan. There, he met a group of refugees from Afghanistan, who smuggled him across the border into their country, just as the Russian Invasion was closing the country to all western journalists. Emerging in traditional dress, with full beard and weather-worn features after weeks embedded with the Mujahideen, McCurry brought the world the first images of the conflict in Afghanistan, putting a human face to the issue on every masthead.

Since then, McCurry has gone on to create stunning images over six continents and countless countries. His work spans conflicts, vanishing cultures, ancient traditions and contemporary culture alike - yet always retains the human element that made his celebrated image of the Afghan Girl such a powerful image.

McCurry has been recognized with some of the most prestigious awards in the industry, including the Robert Capa Gold Medal, National Press Photographers Award, and an unprecedented four first prize awards from the World Press Photo contest, to name a few.