Archive for Herat

Faces of Afghanistan

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2014 by stevemccurry

“A landscape might be denuded,
a human settlement abandoned or lost,
but always,
just beneath the ground lies history of preposterous grandeur. . .
They are everywhere, these individuals of undaunted
humankind, irrepressibly optimistic and proud.”
–  The Carpet Wars, Christopher Kremmer

_PBS6026_es (1)Kabul



AFGHN-12331NF (1)Panjshir Valley

Yet even at their most turbulent, the Afghans have tended to impress
travellers with
their dignity and hospitality as much as their fierce independence.
– William Dalrymple,  author of Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan 1839–42

AFGHN-12691NF2 (1)Kabul



God must have loved Afghans because he made them so beautiful.
– Unknown

PAKISTAN-10003Peshawar, Pakistan Afghan refugee 




AFGHN-12244NF (2)Kunduz


In Afghanistan, you don’t understand yourself solely as an individual.
You understand yourself as a son, a brother, a cousin to somebody, an uncle to somebody.
You are part of something bigger than yourself.
– Khaled Hosseini



AFGHN-10242 (1)Kandahar



AFGHN-10060, Pul-i-Khumri, Afghanistan, 1992. A bandaged wounded boy.Pul-e-Khumri




A French man who worked for the ICRC had been to inspect one of Kabul’s
prisons to
check on the conditions of the prisoners.
After their names had all been verified, he noticed a door which had remained unopened for the inspection. 

The prison guard had been reluctant to open it;
behind it was just an old man in solitary confinement, he had said.
But it was the man’s job to count the prisoners, and he insisted on being shown inside.

When the door was open, he caught sight of a half-naked old man in the freezing and windowless cell.
The old man had tottered to his feet, lifted the scrap of cloth on which he sat,
brushed the dust from it and stepped back, smiling, to offer the space to his guest.
– Jason Elliott, An Unexpected Light


Beetles & Huxley Gallery
London, UK
12 May through 7 June 2014

Going Home

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 11, 2012 by stevemccurry

Home is where one starts from. 
– T.S. Eliot

Rajasthan, India

The ache for home lives in all of us…
– Maya Angelou

Omo Valley, Ethiopia

My home is my retreat and resting place …
I try to keep this corner as a haven against the tempest outside,
as I do another corner in my soul.
– Michel de Montaigne

Cave Homes in Bamiyan, Afghanistan


He is the happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home.
– Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Bamiyan Province, Afghanistan 

The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown.
It may be frail — its roof may shake — the wind may blow through it — the storm may enter — the rain may enter —
but the King of England cannot enter! — all his forces dare not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement.
-William Pitt the Elder


All language is a longing for home.
– Jalaluddin Rumi, 13th-Century Persian poet






Home is any four walls that enclose the right person.
-Helen Rowland


A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body.
– Benjamin Franklin


Tihamah Plain, Yemen

A man travels the world in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.
– George Edward Moore

Refugees returning to destroyed homes, Herat, Afghanistan


There is no doubt that it is around the family and the home that all the greatest virtues,
the most dominating virtues of human society, are created, strengthened and maintained. 
– Winston Churchill



 Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.
– John Howard Payne



 My home is not a place; it is people.
– Lois McMaster Bujold




Life’s a voyage that’s homeward bound.
– Herman Melville

Omo Valley, Ethiopia

It takes a lot of living to make a house a home

It doesn’t make any  difference how rich you get to be
How much your chairs and tables cost, how great your luxury;
It isn’t home to you though it be the palace of a king,
Until somehow your soul is wrapped round everything.
– Paraphrase of Edgar Guest poem, Home

Upcoming Exhibitions
Plazzo Ducale, Genova, Italy – Opens October 17, 2012

Annenberg Space for Photography, Los Angeles, California, United States – November 15, 2012
 Kunstmuseum-Wolfsburg, Germany – January 19, 2013
Kunsthalle Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland – June 1, 2013

Proverbs and Poems from Afghanistan

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2011 by stevemccurry

AFGHN-10225 Jalalabad 

If literacy rates were measured by a nation’s proverbs and poetry, Afghanistan would be one of the most literate countries on earth.  These two forms of the oral tradition have been embraced for centuries and reveal the heart and soul of the Afghan people.


Proverbs are part of every culture and have been for thousands of years.  Francis Bacon said that the wit, genius, and spirit of a nation are discovered in its proverbs.  Here are some common Afghan proverbs which provide unique insights into the ancient culture.


There is a path to even the tallest mountain.

AFGHN-10010NFHindu Kush Mountains 

The mountains are our people.

AFGHN-12819 The harsh land is integral to this nomadic herder culture with deep roots in high pastures. “Koh-o mar-domon moya,” a saying goes: “The mountains are our people.” Qala-e Sabzi.

A warm fire is better than a delicious meal.

AFGHN-10124-(1)Refugees return to their bombed out neighborhood in Herat

If there is only bread and onions, still have a happy face.


In a ditch where water has flowed, it will flow again.

AFGHN-12258Irrigation channel, Kandahar 

Many drops make a river.

AFGHN-10064NFBetween Sarobi and Kabul 

A real friend is one who takes the hand of his friend in times of distress and helplessness.



Not even the five fingers of our hands are alike.

AFGHN-10090Textile Dyer, Kabul

There is blessing in action.

AFGHN-10146Bakery run by Afghan widows

AFGHN-12998Brick Workers, Bamiyan Province

First a friend then a brother.



In Afghanistan, the tradition of poetry writing and recitation dates back a thousand years.  To lend credibility to an argument, the preface,  “The poet says…”   denies the listener the opportunity to disagree.  Although many do not read or write, they can recite long passages of both classic and modern poetry.


If leadership rests inside the lion’s jaw,
So be it. Go snatch it from his jaws.
Your lot shall be greatness, prestige, honor and glory.
If all fails, face death like a man.

Hanzala of Badghis – 9th century poet

Wounded Afghan fighter outside of Jalalabad


Ah! How beautiful is Kabul encircled by her arid mountains
And Rose, of the trails of thorns she envies
Her gusts of powdered soil, slightly sting my eyes
But I love her,  for knowing and loving are born of this same dust

My song exhalts her dazzling tulips
And at the beauty of her trees, I blush
How sparkling the water flows from Pul-I-Mastaan!
May Allah protect such beauty from the evil eye of man!

Khizr chose the path to Kabul in order to reach Paradise
For her mountains brought him close to the delights of heaven
From the fort with sprawling walls, A Dragon of protection
Each stone is there more precious than the treasure of Shayagan

Every street of Kabul is enthralling to the eye
Through the bazaars, caravans of Egypt pass
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs

And the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls …

 – Saib-e-Tabrizi, 17th century poet 


AFGHN-10130 Nomads at prayer at sunrise


The earth opens her warm arms
to embrace me
The earth is my mother
She understands the sorrow
of my wandering

My wandering
is an old crow
that conquers
the very top of an aspen
a thousand times a day

Perhaps life is a crow
that each dawn
dips its blackened beak
in the holy well of the sun

Perhaps life is the grief-stricken earth
who has opened up her bloodied arms to me

And here I give thanks
on the brink of ‘victory’

–  Partaw Naderi

July, 2002 

Fusion: The Synergy of Images and Words Part III

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2010 by stevemccurry

Herat, Afghanistan


For hundreds of years artists have tried to portray the relationship of a reader and his/her book.  We are familiar with words describing images, but not so familiar with images describing words and the impact that reading has on our lives.


Chiang Mai, Thailand



Kham, Tibet



Shwedagon Pagoda, Burma


“Reading is a means of thinking with another person’s mind; it forces you to stretch your own.”  – Charles Scribner


Old Delhi, India


Everywhere I go in the world, I see young and old, rich and poor, reading books. Whether readers are engaged in the sacred or the secular, they are, for a time, transported to  another world.


Varanasi, India



Kham, Tibet


The world’s largest book fair will be held in Frankfurt starting on October 6. Publishers, booksellers, agents, film producers,  authors, and journalists from all over the world will attend.  It is a privilege that my series of reading pictures will be projected during the opening press conference and featured in the daily publication, Publishing Perspectives.


Saõ Paolo, Brazil


Angkor Thom, Angkor, Cambodia


Susan Sontag said, ”The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality…” The same can be said for reading books.


Bamiyan, Afghanistan



Yangon, Burma



Tokyo, Japan



Shanghai, China

“We read to know we’re not alone.”   – C.S. Lewis




In the Shadow of Mountains

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on December 16, 2009 by stevemccurry

A Portfolio of Images from Afghanistan


Classroom in Kunduz, Afghanistan, 2002

Allah is the mountain above the mountain, and it is He who entertains the idea — or not — of our next hour on the earth.


Girls High School, Bamiyan, 2006

This is why Afghans are reluctant to bet on tomorrow. Tomorrow is not ours to presume upon. Tomorrow is the pleasure of Allah alone.

Hazara Women at Grave in Bamiyan

Hazara women at grave in Bamiyan, 2007

Insha’Allah.  The pervasive, overpowering feeling that is difficult to describe about Afghanistan.


Bread Vendor, Kabul, 1992

It is the stubborn and unassailable conviction – the ability to endure almost anything – that defines the Afghan soul and my fascination with it.


Father and daughter at home with folk art on the wall, Kamdesh, Nuristan, Afghanistan, 1992

It is this powerful feeling that draws me there again and again.


Herat Ruins, 1992


Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992


Former soldier in facility for mentally ill patients, Kabul, 1992

The Afghanistan Dilemma  –

Preposterous Grandeur

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 19, 2009 by stevemccurry

In Christopher Kremmer’s  book, The Carpet Wars, he writes this about Afghanistan:

“A landscape might be denuded, a human settlement abandoned or lost, but always, just beaneath the ground lies history of preposterous grandeur. . . They are everywhere, these individuals of undaunted humankind, irrepressibly optimistic and proud.”


Herat, Afghanistan, 1992

The beautiful city of Herat has been inhabited for over two millennia and has been fought over by invaders from Alexander the Great to the Soviets which picked Herat as one of their first battlefields.


Bala Hisar Fort, Herat, Afghanistan, 2002

When I photographed there, it looked like Dresden after World War II.  But the war with the Soviet Union had ended by the late 1980’s, and families had started to return from Iran and other countries to rebuild their homes.


A young man returns to his hometown of Herat, 1991


School boy, Herat, 1991

Herat has always been considered to be a cultural center where the arts, literature, architecture, and knowledge flourish.   Herat is a treasure trove of ancient forts, citadels, mosques, and minarets.


October, 2009

It is a privilege to have an exhibition of my photographs going on now at the Charhar Suq Cistern in Herat.  The Aga Khan Foundation is rebuilding the huge caravanserai in Herat which has four big branches.  Right in the intersection is the place called the Charhar Suq cistern.

Herat women looking at picture, 2009

Herati women looking at my picture of an orphan from Kandahar, October, 2009

During the first week, more than 1,800 people visited the exhibit along with 800 local high school students  field trips organized by the Afghan ogranization, Education Support Organization.


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