Photography has always been a form of expression, but more than that, photography can also be a form of activism. Photography is voice. Mountain2Mountain— a nonprofit that was founded upon the ethos of connecting communities and cultures and the belief that the power of voice can create change — is in Afghanistan this fall, exhibiting a traveling show titled “Streets of Afghanistan,” a cultural exhibit of life-size photographs that depict life in Afghanistan as Afghans see it.
Afghanistan is not the place you would think of for emerging artists and activist culture. It’s a beautiful country with beautiful people, and this trip is a reminder that we can be so different and yet so similar, and it is good to see this country up close and be reminded that the whole thing is not completely falling apart. That being said, it makes it even more heartbreaking to see the destruction and chaos that these people deal with on a regular basis.
Few countries are more ripe for an artistic scene. Just sit for a few hours over coffee at The Venue, a coffee shop turned artist refuge, surrounded by the work of artists, and you can literally feel the pulse of an artistic heartbeat. Inside the entrance is the artist statement spray painted on the steel doors.
In the past three years, a space has slowly emerged for artistic voice and an activist movement. Today, all you have to do is look on the billboards and concrete walls around Kabul to see how contemporary art is emerging in public spaces. Banksy-esque artists have embraced graffiti art as a public statement on peace.
What does it take to produce a handful of full-scale public photo exhibitions in Afghanistan? We broke it down by numbers.
- Bags checked all the way to Kabul: 32
- Number of bags that made it safely to Kabul: 32
- Hours spent waiting in Dubai airport: 22
- Hours spent sleeping on Dubai airport floor: 3.5
- Porters that it took to transport bags from airport to bus: 5
- Photo exhibits produced: 5
- Words learned in Dari: 61
- Flat tires on bikes: 3
- Flat tires on buses: 1
- Scarves purchased: 59
- Food photos taken: 266
- Severed cows’ heads seen: 19
- Police commanders met with: 4
- Gigabytes of photos: 148
- Impromptu fake marriages out of convenience: 1
Against the odds, Mountain2Mountain completed five public exhibitions and two photo stagings at historic sites over the past two weeks in Afghanistan. Their travels, efforts and updates continue.