In this interview with A.P.N. Jawad Jalali, photographer and managing director of Afghan Eyes Photo Agency, shares his thoughts on one of the biggest personal projects done by the Agency team of photographers.
Could you tell us a little about what your Agency is working with right now part from assignments?
Sure, right now we are working on this huge story about the Afghan security forces. The last 3 years we have travelled to all parts of Afghanistan working with the border police and the Special Forces in all kind of situations from demonstrations to terrorist attacks. We have been everywhere and tried to cover all aspects of the military life. We want to show the capacity of the Afghan national security forces and then it is up to the viewers to judge if the forces are capable of bringing peace and security after the coalition forces leave.
Has it been difficult to get the permissions and to work with the military?
Actually no, in most cases they were very easy to work with and whenever we travelled with them they were very friendly and cooperative, but it became even easier when my partner in the agency, Ahmad Massoud, last year shot a picture that made an Afghan soldier a national hero over night. The story was that this soldier was shot in his leg, but still he was fighting against the terrorists. When we got back to the office we published the picture to blogs and social media like Facebook, and the next morning we saw that there were thousands and thousands of shares, likes and comments. Some organisations decided to print the picture and make billboards all around Kabul so that made that soldier a hero. After that our cooperation with media and military forces became much easier.
Many of your pictures are very dramatic shot in the middle of combat situations, what about your own security?
It is very risky, and sometimes the soldiers joke with us and show us their guns. They are saying; at least we have guns, when attacked by suicide bombers you have only a camera to defend yourself with. It is true, we have no protection, and many times journalists and photographers have to take great personal risk to tell the stories. One of my friends working for the national TV was shot in the back. He was standing only five meters from me during the same attack as Massoud made the famous pictures of the wounded soldier. Now my friend is in a wheelchair it´s a very sad story.
It is dangerous when you want to tell the real story. You have to be in the middle of the situation, and that can be very dangerous.
Why is photography important?
Photography is extremely important in telling the Afghan story to the Afghan people. We have around 70 % illiterate, they can not read and they get a lot of their information through pictures. Just to give you an example; in 2008 we had around 5 exhibitions, one were about Afghan women and it was exhibited in 6 provinces. Some of the pictures showed women working as TV- and radio journalists and that came as a surprise to many people. They thought that the only place a woman could work was in the home.
So these are all small steps to bring change to the people minds. This is a positive and important part of the job.
We are almost done with the new project. We just need a few more pictures and then we will find ways to exhibit the project. It is very important that we reach the people and exhibit the work in public places throughout Afghanistan. Our message is for the people of Afghanistan.
How do you see the future when the coalition forces are leaving Afghanistan?
I can say as an Afghan I am confused. It is all politics and I am not sure if we will have peace or war. But I have been with the Afghan military forces and I am optimistic. They are well trained and able to handle the situation but at the same time each day Taliban is getting more powerful. We have to see what the future will bring.