LUKAS BIRK & SEAN FOLEY: Afghan Box Camera


Shortlisted for the 2014 Kraszna-Krausz Book Awards


Afghan Box Camera documents a living form of photography in danger of disappearing forever. Known as the kamra-e-faoree (‘instant camera’), Afghanistan is one of the last places on earth where it has continued to be used by photographers as a way of making a living. Hand-made out of wood, it is a camera and darkroom in one, and generations of Afghans have had their portraits taken with it, usually for identity documents. Under the Taliban, with the banning of photography, it was even outlawed, forcing photographers to hide or destroy their tools.

Spanning decades, from peacetime to war, box camera photography in Afghanistan exists within a more sophisticated photographic history. The same photographers who ply their trade with the humble kamra-e-faoree may also make large format black and white portraits, which are then hand-coloured with exquisite artistry. With the help of dozens of Afghan photographers Afghan Box Camera illustrates the technique and artistry of a previously untold and visually enthralling photographic culture.

Lukas Birk is an Austrian multi-media artist who exhibits regularly and organises visual-media workshops. He works primarily in Asia. In China and Indonesia he has set up artist-in-residency programmes as well as networks of local artists to co-operate with those in his native Austria.

Sean Foley, an Irish ethnographer specialising in visual anthropology, works as a researcher on art projects. He first travelled to Afghanistan in 2002. He has made ethnographic films on mortuary workers in India, tourism in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and cultural ecology in the south of Greece.

Between 2005-2007 Sean and Lukas collaborated, researching tourism in Afghanistan and the surrounding region. This resulted in the book Kafkanistan with an accompanying multi-media exhibition.

ISBN: 978-1-907893-36-0
Hardback, 176 pages
120 colour / black & white photos
270mm x 240mm

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