… are filled with bombs, bloodshed and radical fundamentalists? A scan of newspaper headlines related to Afghanistan usually yields something negative. Typing the word Afghanistan into the Google News search engine a few minutes ago, the first three results were: “Afghanistan attacks kill dozens of civilians,” “Afghanistan War: Can the US gains last?” and “Pentagon changing lingo for growing threat in Afghanistan.” Not surprisingly, the images that appear alongside these media stories also depict scenes of violence, suffering and destruction. As a result, mention the streets of Afghanistan to someone passing by and they are almost guaranteed to conjure up something bad in their minds. To be sure, Afghanistan has its problems, but finally, someone has uncovered something else about the streets of Afghanistan; the streets of Afghanistan are vibrant, filled with life and frequented by beautiful people.
The Streets of Afghanistan is a life-sized photography exhibit that has toured the United States and represents the work of 11 notable Western and Afghan photographers including Paula Bronstein, Paula Lerner, Faranza Wahidy and Tony Di Zinno. Capturing images from the urban streets of Kabul and the rural roads of the Afghan countryside, the exhibit gives viewers a glimpse of what life is like in a typical Afghan neighborhood or village and the over sized portraits make it feel like you are walking among the subjects of the photographs themselves.
Mountain2Mountain is the organization that has worked to assemble these striking photographs; “an effort to connect the communities and cultures of the United States and Afghanistan so we can combat apathy and break stereotypes about a region of the world that has endured nearly four decades of conflict, ” according to Shannon Galpin, founder of Mountain2Mountain, a Colorado based nonprofit working to empower women and girls in this secretive and often misunderstood country. By giving a face to the people of Afghanistan, people who aren’t involved in the conflict that we are saturated with by the mainstream media, the exhibit certainly has the power to change attitudes and get people thinking about a side of Afghanistan that has largely been unseen by those of us in the West.
Currently, Mountain2Mountain is working to bring the Streets of Afghanistan exhibit home and display the unique collection in a groundbreaking street art installation in Kabul. Afghanistan is still suffering from unrest and instability so bringing the display back to where it originated will be challenging and expensive, however, according to Shannon, “these images have allowed the voices and stories of the Afghan community to be heard, unedited, in the United States. Presenting them on the streets of Kabul to share with the Afghan gives back to a people from which so much has been taken and used to fulfill a particular narrative. The power of public art ignites conversation, community, and opens our eyes to both the beauty and the heartbreak seen every day throughout Afghanistan.”
This is certainly a worthwhile cause and a project that has the potential to initiate a new and meaningful dialog surrounding the situation people in Afghanistan face on a daily basis in ways that traditional diplomacy cannot. If you are interested in helping Moutnain2Mountain bring the Streets of Afghanistan back to Kabul, we encourage you to visit their fundraising page on Kickstarter.
All images courtesy of Shannon Galpin and Mountain2Mountain