Rephotographing Afghanistan 16 years later: multimedia report

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November 1994. A muhljadeen soldier overlooking Jade Malwand in Kabul’s Old City.
© Seamus Murphy

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June 2010. Overlooking Jade Malwand in Kabul’s Old City. © Seamus Murphy

Great, short, 2-minute slideshow with audio commentary from VII photographer Seamus Murphy. He photographed in Afghanistan in 1994, and then revisited the exact same places and photographed again a few weeks ago. Some of his comments:

I returned to Afghanistan in June 2010 and photographed some of the places I had shot on previous trips. It was surprising how little had changed after so many years of violence and war. And after the billions of dollars that Afghanistan and the Afghans are told they should be grateful for. Theres not too much evidence of that in these recent photographs..
To find the original vantage points I used references like poles and structures that, incredibly, were still standing.
In Kabul, the big difference is in the traffic and the crowds. The city has 4.5 million people, it was 500,000 in 1994. Some lives have improved and trade is obviously flourishing. But there is a lot of resentment of opportunities wasted, of money stolen and the worsening insecurity.
The other big difference in the city is the absence of fear that permeated everything in 1994. Back then, Kabul was a labyrinth of front lines, with mujahideen factions shelling each other and there was widespread looting and murder of civilians.
Today, the latent fear is of suicide bombers. The noise and crowds add to the tension while you sit for hours in traffic. The mind plays games and you look more closely at the guy sweating heavily in the car next to you. Is he wearing the deadly belt? But no, he’s just overweight.
Afghans know the Americans will leave and they want the Americans to leave. But what they don’t know, is what will happen when the Americans finally leave?

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