Archive for Kandahar

The Spirit of Afghanistan

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2015 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



“I have the impression that (Afghan) children are
much more excited about going to school than
children in other countries are.  
They think of it as a special privilege.
Going to school, being with other children,
getting books and pencils – all of that is like a dream for them.”  
– Dr. Cheryl Benard, Veiled Courage




Near the Afghan/Pakistan border

AFGHN-12883Near the Afghan/Pakistan border


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 spirit and soul
of the Afghan people.

Jabal os Saraj

AFGHN-12074NFLake at Band i Amir


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.

Pul i Khumri






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.
– Saeb-e-Tabrizik
Translation by Josephine Davis

00206_03, Kabul, Afghanistan, 2002 final print_milan retouched_Sonny Fabbri 7/05/2015Kabul

If my heart trembles
for Kabul,
it’s for the slow step of summer noons,
siestas in my father’s house which,
heavy with mid-day sleep,
still weighs on my ribs…

It’s for the hawker’s cry
of the vegetable seller doing his rounds,
lost in my neighbours’ troubled dreams,
that my heart’s trembling.
– Shakila Azizzda



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

Jalalabad, Afghanistan, 1992, AFGHN-10225. Portrait of a man with cloudy beard. MAX PRINT SIZE: 30X40 final print_milan Portraits_Book In The Shadow of the Mountain_Book Looking East_Book PORTRAITS_book PORTRAITS_APP final print_Beetles and Huxley NYC9239, MCS1992006 K103 Retouched_Sonny Fabbri 02/05/2014 MAX PRINT SIZE: 30X40

 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



Up to their ankles in mud, villages near Kandahar clear accumulated silt
from a karez, 
or underground channel, an ancient irrigation method.

00113_18, Shia Mosque, Chindawal,Kabul, Afghanistan, 2002. AFGHN-12669. A woman in Afghanistan. retouched_Sonny Fabbri 7/15/2015
Chindawal, Kabul

00214_06, Hazrat Ali Mosque, Mazar i Sharif, Afghanistan, 1992, AFGHN-10164NF7. Salat at Blue Mosque in Mazar-Sharif, Afghanistan, 1992. MAX PRINT SIZE: 30x40 Hazrat Ali Mosque final print_HERMITAGE final print_Zurich final print_Beetles and Huxley Fine Art Print retouched_Sonny Fabbri 05/28/2014

Please visit
to see our educational initiatives in Afghanistan.

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

Fusion: The Synergy of Images and Words

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2011 by stevemccurry


Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, Rangoon, Myanmar/Burma

 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.



Ever since Gutenberg invented the printing press which enabled
everyone access to books, artists have tried to portray the relationship of readers and books.



Garrett Stewart’s book, The Look of Reading:
Book, Painting, Text, explores the relationship of
reading and art.He points out that a wide array of artists from Rembrandt to  Picasso and Cassatt
and dozens more,over the past 500 years
have painted people reading and the “look of reading” on the subjects’ faces.


Shanghai, China


Rome, Italy


Spanish Steps, Rome, Italy


Chiang Mai, Thailand

  We are familiar with words describing images, but not so
familiar with images describing words and the
impact reading has on our lives.


Istanbul, Turkey

Reading a good book is a universal activity,
and people read while they do just about everything else.


Afghan soldier takes cover from bombardment at Kandahar Airport


Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus
formerly Victoria Terminus, Mumbai/Bombay, India


Ujjian, India

We read to know we are not alone.
– C.S. Lewis


Havana, Cuba

FRANCE-10068, Lourdes, 10/1989,

Lourdes, France


Washington Square Park, New York


Venice, Italy


Rome, Italy

I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.
– Jorge Luis Borges


Istanbul, Turkey

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!
– Emily Dickinson


3-5 Swallow Street
London W1B 4DE
September 7 –Extended to October 15, 2011

2525 Michigan Ave #A1
Santa Monica, CA 90404
September 10 – December 1, 2011
735 Main Avenue
Durango, CO
September 9 – December 14, 2011
Houston, TX
September 17 – October 15, 2011
Museum of Contemporary Art
Rome, Italy
December 1, 2011 – April 29, 2012

Travelers’ Tales

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 13, 2011 by stevemccurry

INDIA-10711NF-(1) Agra, India

Stories about travelers are as old as humankind.  

One of the earliest travelers’ tales was Homer’s Odyssey, from 800 B.C.E., the story of Odysseus’ journey home after the Trojan Wars.

INDIA-10839Howrah Station, Calcutta, India

From Homer to Dante,  Xuanzang , Marco Polo and Cervantes to Halliburton, to Kerouac, Durell, Theroux, Iyer, writers have taken their readers along on their travels, whether the journey is  fiction, non-fiction, or a combination of both.

BURMA-10451, Burma, Myanmar, 02/2011Train Station, Burma/Myanmar

“The traveler sees what he sees.The tourist sees what he has come to see.”
– G. K. Chesterton


He who does not travel does not know the value of men.
– Moorish proverb

AFGHN-10231Kandahar, Afghanistan

00163_01. Sri Lanka, 1995 Sri Lanka

_SM10433_2, Myanmar, Burma, 02/2011, BURMA-10373 Burma/Myanmar

“The World is a book,  and those who do not travel
read only a page.”
– St. Augustine

TIBET-10198NFKandze, Tibet

AFGHN-12295Kabul, Afghanistan

BURMA-10384; Myanmar, Burma; 02/2011Burma/Myanmar

AFGHN-12369Maimana, Afghanistan

AFGHN-12254Hindu Kush Mountains, Afghanistan

BURMA-10404; Myanmar (Burma); 02/2011Burma/Myanmar

AFGHN-10154Kabul, Afghanistan

EUROPE-10121, Russia, August, 2008, Final print_NovartisRussia

Children at Work

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2011 by stevemccurry

AFRICA-10237The Sahel, Africa

In developing countries one in six children from 5 to 14 years old is involved in child labor.

INDIA-10207Ship-breaking yard, Mumbai, India

Shoepolisher, Tibetans, 12/2000, final book_iconicLhasa, Tibet

In the least developed countries, 30 percent of all children are engaged in child labor.

Marpha, Nepal, 1998Marpha, Nepal

Worldwide, 126 million children work in hazardous conditions, often enduring beatings, humiliation and sexual violence by their employers.

AFGHN-13034NFKabul, Afghanistan

The highest proportion of child laborers is in sub-Saharan Africa, where 26 percent of children (49 million) are involved in work.

Kabul, Afghanistan

AFGHN-13002Kabul, Afghanistan

AFGHN-12258-(1)Kandahar, Afghanistan

An estimated 1.2 million children — both boys and girls — are trafficked each year into exploitative work in agriculture, mining, factories, armed conflict or commercial sex work.

_SM13419, Myanmar, Burma, 02/2011, BURMA-10283Mandalay, Myanmar/ Burma

AFGHN-10025Kabul, Afghanistan

AFGHN-12925Bamiyan, Afghanistan 

“Child labor and poverty are inevitably bound together,  and if you continue to use the labor of children as the treatment for the social disease of poverty, you will have both poverty and child labor to the end of time.” –  Grace Abbott


AFGHN-12209Pul i Khumri, Afghanistan

Cigarette Vendor, Kabul Survey Trip, 05/2002 Kabul, Afghanistan

AFGHN-12243Pul i Khumri, Afghanistan

Charikar, Afghanistan, 2002

 ImagineAsia’s Storybook Project for Afghan Children

The mission of ImagineAsia, a 501c3 non-profit organization, is to work in partnership with local community leaders and regional NGO’s to help students in Afghan communities receive fundamental educational materials and resources. 

IA  has started to translate Aesop’s fables into Dari for the children of Afghanistan who have never had a book of their own.  Translated and illustrated by volunteers, these stories will reach families in remote areas of the country.

For thousands of years the fables have revealed universal truths through simple allegories.  The stories often use animals to  teach lessons that are easily understood by people of all ages.

Here are some sample pages:

The Lion and the Mouse –  illustrated by Jason Melcher

 The Boy Who Cried Wolf – illustrated by Kate Raines

Pitcher and the Crow –  illustrated by Lois Andersen

An Afghan Folktale – The Silver on the Hearth – illustrated by Kate Harrold

Tortoise and Hare –  illustrated by Kate Harrold

The Donkey and its Purchaser – illustrated by Kate Harrold

The Sun and the Wind – illustrated by Annie Zimmerman

 The Fox and the Goat – illustrated by Jason Melcher


Rationale, Rationalization, and Illogic

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 5, 2010 by stevemccurry

World Trade Center Collapse, September 11, 2001

Immediately after the atrocity at the World Trade Center on 9/11, we went into Afghanistan to find Osama Bin Laden, to root out Al Qaeda and  the Taliban which was protecting it, and to fight the “war on terror”.


Nine years later, we are not only still there, but by almost anyone’s calculation, we are losing.  The Taliban has been able to strike in the capital numerous times, the general in charge of the troops has been relieved of his duty for intemperate comments about his superiors and the situation in general, and the signs of improvement are few and far between.


The rationale for the mission has lurched from one rationale to another,  and officials in Washington and in Kabul all try to explain what we are trying to accomplish.   We have been told it is to keep the streets safe in America.  It has been said that we are there to give breathing room to the Afghan government to build up their own forces.  We hear that we are there to help build Afghan institutions so that the country can have a civil society.  How does that square with the facts now?


According to the AP and ABC, CIA Director Leon Panetta said on Sunday there may be fewer than 50 al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan. Panetta said, “I think the estimate on the number of Al Qaeda is actually relatively small. At most, we’re looking at 50 to 100, maybe less. It’s in that vicinity.”

President Barack Obama wants U.S. forces in Afghanistan to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda.” About U.S. 98,000 troops will be in Afghanistan by fall.


“It’s a curious thing about Afghanistan: every time a politician makes the case for why we need to stay, he or she ends up making the case for why we should leave.  And he thinks he’s making a case for staying! It’s truly bizarre how many in Washington are describing the situation in Afghanistan accurately, but then fail to draw the most obvious conclusion based on what they’ve just said.” (Ariana Huffington)


Panetta said less than a week ago:Our purpose, our whole mission there, is to make sure that Al Qaeda never finds another safehaven from which to attack this country. That’s the fundamental goal of why the United States is there.”


If there are fewer than one hundred members of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and if eliminating Al Qaeda is truly the main objective, the costs are staggering in human lives and in scarce dollars that we can not afford.  The U.S. has paid more than 300 billion dollars and the costs keep skyrocketing.


General Petreus says that we will win this war, but what does winning mean?  Kandahar is still a Taliban stronghold nine years after the start of the war.  Unfortunately, there are too many questions and too few answers.


The “Q” word – quagmire – has been mentioned a lot recently.  How much time has to elapse before we know if we are in a quagmire?  If the definition is “a difficult, precarious, or entrapping position, a predicament”  we are already in one.


We all want Afghans to live in a peaceful society, and to be able to raise their families in security and safety.  We want Afghan children to get a proper education which will give them a future.  We want women to live without the fear which they suffered under during the Taliban years.


The problem is, that it is difficult to see how adding more troops will achieve that goal.  It seems to be doing the opposite since in the last nine years more boots on the ground have not produced security for Afghans.


Honor Matters

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2010 by stevemccurry

Pashtunwali – The Code of the Pashtuns

I heard it said by a Pashtun that he has been a Pashtun for 5,000 years, a Muslim for 1430 years, and a Pakistani for 63 years.  That is the power of the Pashtun identity, one of the oldest and largest ethnic/tribal groups in the world.


Kandahar, Afghanistan, 1992. A group of Pashtun tribal nomads called Kuchis in the desert near Kandahar.

Forty million strong, Pashtuns mainly live in the Pashtun tribal belt which straddles the Afghan/Pakistan border.


Farmer, Jalalabad, Afghanistan, 1992

The legal and moral code by which they live,  deeply embedded in the Pashtun psyche, is the concept of Pashtunwali, the idea that honor, hospitality, revenge,  and the importance of tribe, clan, and family are paramount.


Kabul, Afghanistan, 2002



Pakistan, 1984. Afghan Pashtun Refugees

Fierce fighters, they are said to have been reluctantly admired by the British, Russians, and any other group who tried to subdue them.


Kandahar, 1985

It is said that they are today’s Spartans in a culture that lives and breathes war and conflict.


Kandahar, 1992

The attempt to extend the influence of a national government is antithetical to the Pashtun ways of living.  Outsiders are rejected violently if they threaten to usurp the ancient ways.


Young girl, Ghazni, Afghanistan, 1990

In order to understand current events in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is imperative to understand the mores of this ancient tribe.



Kabul, 2002



Kilns firing bricks to rebuild homes, Kandahar, Afghanistan, 1992


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