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Daily Life in Afghanistan

Works created by 6 Afghan photographers during a photography workshop in Kabul.
Jul 2005

In December 2004, the photography exhibition "Trotz Alledem - Alltag in Afghanistan" (Despite It All – Daily Life in Afghanistan) was shown in Kabul. It was later seen in Herat (Afghanistan) and Montréal (Canada), and is scheduled to be presented in September 2005 in Berlin (Germany). The exhibition developed in conjunction with a workshop for artistic photography, sponsored by the Goethe Institute Kabul [1] in cooperation with the photography department of Aïna [2] and headed by the German photographer Wolfgang Bellwinkel [3]. The workshop was conceived as a further education venture organized by a group of Afghan photographers, in order to support their intention to document present-day changes in their country from an insider’s perspective.

Since only a few of the originally cited 9 participants from various places in Afghanistan had any professional experience – such as Farzana Wahidy (the only woman) and Massoud Hossaini, who had both worked before as photo-journalists – it was necessary to begin by acquainting the participants with the basic skills. During the first part of the workshop, lasting four weeks in May/June 2004, Wolfgang Bellwinkel gave introductory courses on the theoretical and practical basis of applied and artistic photography, as well as on their history and contemporary status.

In the second part, in September/October 2004, theme groups the participants meanwhile chose to concentrate on were further developed, and the already completed photographs were discussed and criticized in a group. The next step was converting the photographed film material into a digital format, which allowed participants to practice image processing on the computer.

The goal of the third and closing part of the workshop, in November/December 2004, entailed preparing an exhibition that opened December 6, 2004, in The Foundation for Culture and Civil Society, in Kabul. A selection of the photographs displayed there appear in the photography section of this report. The exhibition catalog is now in preparation [4].

Commenting on the results of the workshop, Wolfgang Bellwinkel wrote: "The participants were asked to exploit their 'native advantage' and search for themes that expressed something about their country, their society, and their culture. They were expected to realize a project that offered insights and didn’t reproduce clichés. Considering their possibilities, I feel they succeeded in doing that. We see photographs that follow, in part, a documentary-journalistic tradition but also embrace artistic-conceptual working methods, and these give us surprising insights into certain courses of events in Afghan society. We see women walking self-confidently alongside their husbands; melancholy young men whose sad stares reflect nothing of the heroically posed Mudschaheddin; and living rooms of every social class, which not only speak of the conventions and dreams of an Islamic society, but go beyond that and show us a multifaceted society…"

Artistic Photography.
A Workshop for Afghan Photographers
1sr part: starting 24 May 2004, four weeks
2nd part: 25 September - 5 October 2004
3rd part: 26 November - 7 December 2004
Trotz Alledem - Alltag in Afghanistan
(Despite It All – Daily Life in Afghanistan)
A project of the Goethe Institute Kabul, in collaboration with The Foundation for Culture and Civil Society, Kabul
Opened on December 6, 2004, in The Foundation for Culture and Civil Society, Kabul.
Additional exhibition venues:
- Aïna Media Center, Herat, Afghanistan (April 2005)
- Goethe Institute Montréal, Canada (June 2005)
- Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Germany (April 2006)
- additional stations in Afghanistan are in preparation

Comments, Links:

  1. Goethe Institute Kabul, the local branch of the German cultural institute. www.goethe.de/ins/af/kab/
  2. Aïna: an independent media and cultural center in Afghanistan. Founded in 2001, it offers journalistic training in several areas, with special programs for women, and houses its own photo-agency. www.ainaworld.org
  3. Wolfgang Bellwinkel: * 1959 in Bochum, Germany. From 1984 to 1988 he studied communication design at the University of Essen. Since 1988 he works as a freelance photographer and lives in Berlin. www.wolfgang-bellwinkel.de
  4. Information on the exhibition and catalog: Dr. Norbert Spitz, Director of the Goethe Institute Kabul. il(at)kabul.goethe.org
(From the German: Karl Johnson)

Artistic Photography
Workshop for Afghan Photographers

Goethe Institute Kabul

Wazir Akbar Khan
Shahmahmod Street
Website Email

Wolfgang Bellwinkel

Mohammad Ishaq Gulban
Massoud Hassan Zadah
Massoud Hossaini
Farzana Wahidy
Ahmad Tamim Malik
Asghar Zada
Najibullah Zirak

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