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People in Afghanistan Are in Urgent Need of Medical Care. 19 Photographers Have Come Together to Help.


KAFEEL, KHOST PROVINCE BY ORIANE ZERAH. “In Afghanistan, one of the traditional hats is called Pakol, and in Khost, the tradition is that men wear their pakol decorated with flowers. In the village of Qaley Fakiram, located in the district of Tani, lives a family made up of 4 brothers and many cousins. In this family we nurture a particular passion for flowers, and all the male members wear a pakol decorated with fresh flowers. They were originally six brothers, but two left the country. There are therefore four left, plus a cousin considered as a brother, to continue the tradition.” – Oriane Zerah

In a village in Khost Province, Afghanistan, you’ll find a community garden, run by a group of brothers and their cousin. There’s a board there that reads, “You can take a flower, but you have to share a cup of tea.” In the district of Tani, where the brothers live, it’s tradition for men to tuck flowers into their Pakol hats. Last September, and then again in the spring, the photojournalist Oriane Zerah spent the day with the brothers. She photographed the brothers in their hats, and she stayed for a meal.

Now, one of her portraits from the pink and turquoise house belonging to Batshazullah, the cousin of the brothers, in Khost Province is part of a photography print and NFT sale, organized by ISHKAR. All of the proceeds will go to EMERGENCY, an organization providing free and high-quality healthcare to survivors of war, poverty, and landmines, and their hospitals in Afghanistan. Every minute, a patient receives care through EMERGENCY. 

Last year, ISHKAR raised $123,000 for the cause. This year, Zerah is one of nineteen leading photographers who have donated their work. The 2022 print sale comes in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake; the deadliest in twenty years, the earthquake killed at least 1,150 people and wounded at least 1,500. Medical professionals were among the victims. The sale is open through the end of the month, offering one-time prices for an extraordinary collection of images ($85 for prints). 

Not all the photographs included in the sale were made in Afghanistan, but many were. Some paint a nuanced portrait of the country’s (very) recent history. Andrew Quilty, while documenting America’s final days in Afghanistan, bears witness as evacuees try to enter Hamid Karzai International Airport amid the Taliban’s taking of Kabul one year ago. Elise Blanchard covers demonstrations in Kabul, as women and girls advocate for the reopening of a girl’s secondary school, this spring. 

At the same time, the collection focuses on the rhythms of ordinary, everyday life, which somehow persists and triumphs amid ever-changing circumstances. In 2002, Steve McCurry photographed a horse at the Band-i-Amir lakes, an azure oasis set between idyllic cliffsides. A decade later, Matthieu Paley traveled to Chaqmaqtin lake in winter. There, he met members of the Kyrgz nomadic community, taking in the view of their yaks grazing against the towering Pamir mountains. 

Beyond the beauty of the landscape itself, there’s also joy–much joy–to be found within some of these pictures. In one, Farshad Usyan takes us to the outskirts of Mazar-i-Sharif, where he was born and raised. There, he watched as children played on an ice cream cart, cast in silhouette by the setting sun. Its title: Splendid Sunset

The ISHKAR EMERGENCY PRINT SALE 2022 is open through August 31st. Be sure to explore the full collection here. The print sale coincides with an additional NFT sale, featuring photographs by Matthieu Paley, Blockbird, and Michael Christopher Brown. You can make a donation to EMERGENCY’s projects across Afghanistan here

SPLENDID SUNSET BY FARSHAD USYAN. “An Afghan boy pushes a friend on an ice-cream cart, as the sun sets on the outskirts of Mazar-i- Sharif.” – Farshad Usyan
UNTITLED BY ANDREW QUILTY. “Afghan evacuees wait beside mini-buses on the tarmac of the military side of Hamid Karzai International Airport as others board planes after the convoy of buses they were on transported a total of 109 Afghans from the Kabul Serena Hotel in the early hours of the morning. As the Taliban took control of Kabul on August 15, the U.S. and other international militaries began a massive evacuation operation that would have to be completed by August 31, the date by which the U.S. had previously agreed to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by. Tens of thousands have been evacuated since, as Afghans with valid travel documents, foreign passport holders and many who have no official reason to be granted access to the airport and evacuation flights but who want to try their luck nonetheless, desperate to leave since the Taliban came to power, mass at the various entrances around the perimeter of the airport trying to enter.” – Andrew Quilty
DEMONSTRATE BY ELISE BLANCHARD. “Afghan women demonstrated in the streets of Kabul asking for the re-opening of public secondary schools for girls, in Kabul on 3.26.22” – Elise Blanchard
CHAQMAQTIN BY MATTHIEU PALEY. “Near the frozen Chaqmaqtin lake, a herd of yak grazes below the Pamir mountains. Incredibly adaptable animals, they push snow with their hooves to feed on the wintery brown grass. During my fourth expedition to Afghanistan’s Pamir mountains, on assignment photographing the isolated nomadic Kyrgz community, for a National Geographic magazine feature story titled “Stranded on the Roof of the World” (February 2013). Shot in winter 2012. ” – Matthieu Paley
HORSE AND TWO TOWERS BY STEVE MCCURRY. “I can think of few greater humanitarian organizations than the Emergency hospitals in Afghanistan which have operated continuously throughout the turbulence of the past year. When many fled the country, Emergency doubled down on their commitment to care for Afghans as they have since 1999. ” – Steve McCurry
KABUL TWINS BY LYNZY BILLING. “A photograph of twins taken in central Kabul. 2020.” – Lynzy Billing
SHARSHAM BY SOLMAZ DARYANI. “Beigom helps her daughter-in-law picking ‘Sharsham’ vegetables from their potato fields in Bamiyan valley. she says, “These vegetables help to consume less flour and bread. Her family, including three of her sons, are affected by last year’s drought. Last year, one of his sons rented the potato field, but due to the drought, he lost last season’s harvest and couldn’t afford to buy seeds or pay the rent for the new planting season. This year, he had to rent the land with the other two brothers. Bamiyan valley. Afghanistan.2019” – Solmaz Daryani
AFGHAN RAINBOW BY RODRIGO ABD. “An Afghan girl walks past destroyed buildings occupied by refugees after a heavy rain in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, April 20, 2006. Spring is the most rainy season in Afghanistan.” – Rodrigo Abd
A BAKERY BY ZAHRA KHODADADI. “A bakery, Kabul, Afghanistan, 2018” – Zahra Khodadadi
KYRGYZ YAK BY LEVISON WOOD. “In the remote Wakhan corridor of northeastern Afghanistan, the Kyrgyz people live a semi-nomadic pastoralist existence herding yaks and goats in the isolated Pamir mountains. I have spent time embedded with the Kyrgyz people several times photographing their culture.” – Levison Wood
A VILLAGE BY LORENZO TUGNOLI. “Sorbi, Village of Toorkhane, Afghanistan, August 2010: A man laughs with his friends in the village of Toorkhane, after he has been jokingly accused of being a Taliban. This photo is part of a long-term project called ‘A Village’ that looked at the multiple layers of rural life in Afghanistan in the wake of 2014 political transition.” – Lorenzo Tugnoli
KABUL BY MICHAEL CHRISTOPHER BROWN. “Hazara brickmakers work atop a kiln in Kabul.” – Michael Christopher Brown
EHSANULLAH, KANDAHAR PROVINCE BY ORIANE ZERAH. “Ehsanullah is 21 years old. He lives in Arghandab in Kandahar province. He created a garden with his own hands at his workplace. If cleaning cars is his job, and he has to do it, his passion is growing flowers.” – Oriane Zerah

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Rafael Jones

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