Monday, 19 December 2011

The Afghan Box Camera Project

Photo Courtesy The Afghan Box Camera

I was very glad to have stumbled on The Afghan Camera Box Project website a few days ago. For quite a while I had given up on posting anything to do with Afghanistan, since the photographs published in various media were either repetitive, unimaginative, stereotypical or plain silly....but this website touches on culture and photography.

The purpose of the Afghan Box Camera Project is to provide a record of the kamra-e-faoree (which in Dari and also in Arabic means 'instant camera') which as a living form of photography is on the brink of disappearing in Afghanistan. It's one of the last places where photographers continue to use a simple type of "instant camera" to make a living. The hand-made wooden camera is both camera and darkroom, and generations of Afghans have had their portraits taken with it, usually for identity photographs.

The project is the work of Lukas Birk and Sean Foley.

The railway station of the Cairo suburb where I grew up had a wooden camera photographer, and I recall (dimly, I admit) had a brisk business. I also came across a wooden camera photographer in Havana, Cuba who showed me how he developed the photograph he made of me.

Two of my friends, Divya Dugar and Frances Schwabenland have produced work on wooden cameras being used in Jaipur in Rajasthan, while Rodrigo Abd has produced Mayan Queens with a 19th century wooden camera of the indigenous women competing to become the National Indigenous Queen of Guatemala.