I haven’t been feeling very inspired lately and this is something that always worries me, because I wonder if the visceral intensity that underpins all my work will return. I’m definitely going through a fallow period, but these things can change very quickly…
Yesterday, I was on a small plane flying from Herat, in the West of Afghanistan, to Kabul, which is towards the East. It was the last flight of the day and, being a prop driven plane, the lower altitude gave me a perfect view of the landscape. Soon after take off, I could see the contours being picked out and there was something cathartic about watching the land gently evolve as soon as we left the runway. I was captivated and, without anything better to hand, pulled the Samsung Galaxy SIII from my pocket and began taking shots through the window. I have one black elbow from trying to rub the window clean!As is usually the case, I could feel the images as much as see them, resulting in quite a bit of work in Lightroom to get the files looking right. High flare and atmospheric haze provided originals that were quite difficult to work with.
The idea was very simple. I wanted to provide a little insight into the landscape as it exists from one edge of the country to the other. Wikipedia describes Afghanistan’s location, as follows:
Afghanistan i/æfˈɡænɨstæn/ (Pashto/Dari: افغانستان, Afġānistān), officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in Central Asia and South Asia. It has a population of around 30 million inhabiting an area of approximately 652,000 km2(252,000 sq mi), making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world. It is bordered by Pakistan in the south and the east,Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the far northeast.
Afghanistan has been an ancient focal point of the Silk Road and human migration. Archaeologists have found evidence of human habitation from as far back as the Middle Paleolithic. Urban civilization may have begun in the area as early as 3,000 to 2,000 BC. Sitting at an important geostrategic location that connects the Middle East culture with Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, the land has been home to various peoples through the ages and witnessed many military campaigns, notably by Alexander the Great, Arab Muslims, Genghis Khan, and in modern-era Western forces. The land also served as a source from which the Kushans, Hephthalites, Samanids, Ghaznavids,Ghorids, Mughals, Durranis and others have risen to form major empires.
These images represent the entire interior and give you a clear sense of what this country is all about from a geological perspective. People talk about the harsh terrain, but its rare that those who have not seen it with their own eyes really understand just how severe it is. Down below is a country preparing for the run offs in the presidential election (polling is tomorrow). An insurgency is being fought with climactic vigour, as insurgents attack electoral staff, infrastructure and intimidate those who might otherwise vote. Once airborne, the overriding feeling was one of ‘beautiful detachment’; the ‘calm before the storm’ if you like, which was made possible by just enough altitude.
More words will come, but for those 70 minutes or so, I disappeared into that familiar zone in which I do not need to think or consider. It just flowed and I hope you get something out of seeing them. The images are displayed in the order they were shot, from shortly after take off in Herat to just before landing in Kabul. A great deal of my current state is in these images, along with eight years of reflection.
I chose to inject something of a 19th century ethnographic feel to these images (minus people…) and felt the influence of Don McCullin’s ‘Africa’, Brett Weston and some of Josef Hoflehner’s more recent work (and maybe a little late 1920s Ansel). I am hoping that they will in many cases hover between the literal and abstract and that you will enjoy this brief journey.