The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Saturday, November 28, 2015

Kabul's Street Photographers Fade into History
Photographer Mia Muhammed, left, who still uses a homemade box camera to take portraits of people is reflected in a mirror attached on the outyer wall of his camera in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, May 16, 2010. His business, though, is coming to an end as supplier of photographic paper no longer stocks it because of dwindling demand.and when his last four boxes are finished, he expects he will be too. AP Photo/Saurabh Das.

By: Jerry Harmer, Associated Press Writer

KABUL (AP).- As his workday begins, Mia Mohammed walks down a dusty street, a bulky contraption on his shoulder. He stops in front of a hospital and puts down the box, setting its battered wooden legs on the edge of the street.

His back to the morning sun, the slim, taciturn 37-year-old man fishes a small lens from his pocket and screws it carefully into one end of the wooden box. He places two trays of chemicals and some paper inside. Then he closes the lid and sets up a chair facing the box.

One of Kabul's last street photographers is open for business.

Not long ago, camera stands were a common sight in Afghanistan's capital. With a government enamored of bureaucracy, Afghans need passport-size photos for nearly everything: school, work, even hospital admissions. And the only way to get those photos was to sit very still on a chair in the street and stare at a lens poking out of a homemade box.

But today dozens of photo shops provide color prints with the click of a mouse. Photographers such as Mohammed are all but gone, victims of the digital age.

"I know of no others," he said, his hand resting almost protectively on top of the red, vinyl-covered box that has been his source of income for more than a decade. He sold it recently and replaced it with a blue one.

"You don't need electricity, you don't need anything to use this camera," he said. "Nothing."

His business, though, is coming to an end. His supplier of photographic paper no longer stocks it, because of dwindling demand. When his last two boxes are finished, he expects he will be too.

He despairs for his future. Not only are digital cameras too expensive for him, but he is illiterate and fears he could not adapt.

"I know how this one works completely," Mohammed said, tapping his hand against the box.

A former tenant farmer, he became a street photographer about 15 years ago, after he stepped on a land mine and lost his left leg below the knee. The International Committee of the Red Cross orthopedic hospital, which treated him, lent him some money to buy a camera so he could earn a living. Since then, he has worked right across the street.

By 9 a.m. on a recent morning he already has a line of customers.

His subject sitting before him, Mohammed retreats behind the box to look through a wooden hatch that functions as a viewfinder. To focus, he uses a metal bar to slide a glass pane until the picture is sharp. Next he slips his arm into a sleeve that hangs from the box and pushes the photographic paper in front of the pane. With an elegant flourish of the hand he removes the lens cap, capturing the image.

It takes about 10 minutes for him to develop the negative. He then shoots a picture of the negative to make a positive, producing a pair of scratchy, blurry photographs that he hands to his waiting customers.

They leave with sepia images that make them appear like their 19th-century ancestors. But none seems to care. What is important is the convenience and the price: 10 Afghanis (about 20 cents) for two pictures. Digital shops charge at least four times that much.

"If you want color you have to go into the city center and we want to be done quickly, so this is better," said Aziz Ullah, gripping the handles of his 12-year-old daughter's wheelchair. She is paralyzed from the waist down, the result of a spinal injury, and had an appointment at the west Kabul hospital.

On an average day, Mohammed earns $6 to $7 from patients who need photos for registration forms. It's just enough to support his wife and four children. He doesn't know what he'll do once his job is done.

"When I had the accident that disabled me it really shook me up and I don't learn easily any more. It's hard to get used to something new," he said.

But on this day, Mohammed stows his much-loved box in a hospital shed and covers it tenderly with a cloth. Soon it will be obsolete — a forgotten item taking up space in a corner. And something unique will have faded away, like an old photograph left out in the light too long.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

Kabul | Mia Mohammed | Aziz Ullah |

Today's News

May 19, 2010

Earliest Mesoamerican Royal Tomb Discovered by Scientific Team inside Pyramid in Chiapas

Greek Police Seize Two Rare Statues From Two Farmers

Collecting the New: Recent Acquisitions to the IMMA Collection

Sotheby's to Sell Four Important Works by British Master L.S. Lowry

Select Works from the Salander O'Reilly Galleries to be Sold at Christie's

Georgia O'Keeffe Draws Art Lovers to Northern New Mexico

Bonhams to Sell Portrait of Greatest Pre-Nelson Military Hero

Artpace Presents Jens Hoffmann's Photos while Driving Around in Texas

Mickey Smith's New Language at Ogilvy & Mather's Chocolate Factory

Dutch Artist Lily van der Stokker Exhibits at Tate St. Ives

Jen Bekman Gallery Presents Thirty-Seven Photographs by Gregory Krum

Iceberg with Dutch Artist Ap Verheggen Artworks Breaks Loose

Oxford University Museum of Natural History Celebrates 150th Anniversary

Numerous Historical Curiosities and Rarities to Highlight Coins, Medals and Banknotes Auction

Kabul's Street Photographers Fade into History

High Museum of Art Announces First Academic Affiliation with Brenau University

Stories, a Captivating Mix Media Show, Opens at the Wolverhampton Art Gallery

Vienna Hosts Art and Architecture from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea

Jerusalem Museum Excavation Damages Bones

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- First solo exhibition by the American artist Mickalene Thomas in Belgium opens at Galerie Nathalie Obadia

2.- Israel accidentally finds ancient mosaic that served as pavement for a courtyard in a villa

3.- The address of Johannes Vermeer's the Little Street discovered by Rijksmuseum curator

4.- The nine lives of Russia's Hermitage cats that root out unwanted guests: Rodents

5.- Robbers make off with masterpieces by Rubens and Tintoretto from museum in Verona

6.- 17th century letters at Museum of Communication reveal refugees 'sense of loss'

7.- New museum dedicated to the artist Mu Xin opens in Zhejiang Province, China

8.- Who are the most prolific art collectors in the US today?

9.- Rubens House brings newly discovered study for a portrait by Van Dyck to Antwerp

10.- "The Nude in the XX and XXI century" curated by Jane Neal opens at Sotheby's S/2 London

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher:Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez
Social Network Manager and Translator: Norma Cristina Pérez Ayala Cano

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful