Forbidden Faces

Forbidden Faces. Afghanistan’s Untold Stories (by Beb Reynol) [in italiano più sotto]

This project explores the aftermath of Talibanization on the Pashtun culture in the borderlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan and the cost of censorship. Forbidden Faces is a photo essay that approaches remote Pashtun communities and captures out-of-the-ordinary faces to reveal their untold stories. (click to see the flash gallery)

Since 1999, Beb Reynol (S4C member)  has walked across the border that separates Afghanistan from Pakistan. Out on the open, in front of a staged backdrop, local Pashtuns are being photographed, their personal stories recorded, stirring an uneasy social behavior among loyal Taliban followers who have so far put a dark shadow over democracy and the freedom of expression in Afghanistan.

The photo essay closely examines the predominant Afghan Pashtun in its own romantic culture, revealing a hidden passion for poetry and music , a cultural and social fabric from which centuries of stories were told and passed on.

(click to see the flash gallery)

The project

Beb Reynol’s work retraces a parallel underground movement, which, at the height of the Taliban regime, led numbers of Taliban fighters, themselves Pashtuns, to secretly pose for intimate and revealing photography portraits. Men posed holding hands together, or next to a bird, a flower or a radio: vital elements of their cultural and individual identity that were banned for “non-Islamic” influences.

Censorship has taken many forms in remote and rural areas. The influence of the Taliban inside Pashrun communities has deeply traumatized people. While in a mission in Kandahar, in Afghanistan, many Pashtuns I tried to photograph were hesitant to be approached; they often looked into the crowd for a positive sign, a general approval.

Piles of negatives of such portraits were found in various locations of the city when the photography shops re-opened one by one after the fall of the regime in 2001, revealing a trend, which hundreds of Taliban loyalists joined in. The desire to be distinguished from a fundamental Talibanization forced hundreds to ignore the ban to express themselves by any means possible, despite their limited communicating skills. The portraits gave them a voice and a channel to communicate their identity while expressing their lack of freedom.

Media coverage of the war on terror in Afghanistan revealed very little about the impact of the Talibanization across the region. The Taliban’s control over the Pashtun communities in tribal regions of Afghanistan has accelerated the decline of an ancient and complex culture. While this project breaks many taboos, I am hoping it will sensitize our western views on a population often marginalized for political agenda, a change very much needed to shatter stereotypes prior implementing peaceful solutions into the regions.

The portraits

The landscape is removed and replaced with a curtain backdrop. The absence of landscape that defines the outlines of their identity transfuses a series of exclusive frames which expose an intimate window to the Pashtuns. The portraits become objective, result of interpretation or perhaps true to the subjects. A rare look into the enemy’s eyes, communicating the voice of ordinary people. The photographs put us face to face with a community that often lies beneath the Taliban’s label.

Beb’s approach is to explore an identity that may best represents the Pashtun.

The Pashtuns have remained the center of upcoming elections and armed conflicts in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Recently, American officials and the Afghan government have entered unprecedented negotiations with the Taliban leadership, to end the war. The questions about the Pashtuns have taken a crucial significance for the world.

Beb’s goal is to document the Pashtun communities in remote and rural areas where illiteracy prevails, trying to bring their various human strength and frailties to the forefront while focusing in every aspect of the Pashtun social and religious structure.

Beb also wants to create a dignifying portrait of Pashtu individuals in Pakistan and Afghanistan who, because of their ethnic status, are victims of circumstances. He wants to record the voice and stories of those who have been silenced due to the rise of fanatical religious elements.

Read more on Beb Reynol website. He’s a great photographer and a great S4C member!

Antonio Amendola

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VOLTI PROIBITI: storie nascoste dall’Afghanistan (di Beb Reynol/S4C)

 E’ un bellissimo progetto quello che presentiamo oggi. Il fotografo S4C Beb Reynol, membro di Shoot4Change,  esplora, infatti, attraverso una serie di ritratti straordinari, le conseguenze della talebanizzazione sulla cultura Pashtun nelle terre di confine tra Afghanistan e Pakistan ed il costo della censura e del fanatismo religioso. (click to see the flash gallery)

Forbidden Faces” è un progetto fotografico sviluppato in remote comunità Pashtun ed incentrato su volti straordinari che rivelano storie nascoste.

(click to see the flash gallery)

Beb Reynol frequenta le zone di confine tra Afghantistan e Pakistan sin dal 1999, raccogliendo un gran numero di ritratti di pashtun locali, realizzati all’aperto, davanti ad un telo (decontestualizzandoli per rafforzarne la storia individuale) e registrando le loro storie personali che evidenziano un comportamento sociale a disagio tra leali seguaci talebani, che hanno finora messo un’ombra oscura sulla democrazia, e la libertà di espressione in Afghanistan.

I volti ritratti (di cui questi sono solo una piccola selezione) lasciano intravedere la cultura Pasthun, e la nascosta  passione per la poesia e la musica; un tessuto culturale e sociale  nel quale sono nate e tramandate tante storie.

Il progetto di Beb è intrigante. Segue le tracce di un movimento nascosto che al culmine del regime Talebano portò un gran numero di combattenti Talebani (anch’essi Pashtun) a posare per ritratti fotografici intimi e rivelatori. Uomini che si tengono per mano, o accanto ad un uccello, un fiore o una radio: elementi vitali della loro cultura ed identità indivuali che erano stati negati e vietati dal regime.

La censura (che assunse diverse forme nelle aree rurali dell’Afghanistan)  e l’influenza talebana ha traumatizzato profondamente le comunità Pashtun. Durante un suo soggiorno a Kandahar, Beb ha notato che  molti di loro erano contrari a farsi ritrarre in foto e cercavano l’approvazione della folla che li circondava, a sostegno del loro istinto a volersi, invece, far fotografare.

A seguito della caduta del regime, sono stati ritrovati innumerevoli negativi (in giro per Kandahar) nei retrobottega dei negozi che venivano, man mano, riaperti; segno rivelatore del desiderio di distinguersi dalla talebanizzazione imposta. Il ritratto fotografico era quindi un modo di dar voce e comunicare la loro identità culturale, sottolineando – allo stesso tempo – il limite alla possibilità di espressione.

(click to see the flash gallery)

Beb  rilancia, con questo progetto, il desiderio dei Pashtun di mantenere viva la loro cultura e la loro dignità, per tanti anni repressa a causa del fanatismo religioso.

Ha quindi realizzato una serie di ritratti (in cui il velo sullo sfondo decontestualizza la persona, concentrando lo sguardo sul suo volto) il cui obiettivo è ridare voce a storie dimenticate ed ignorate.

E’ un grande fotografo, Beb, ed un fantastico membro di Shoot 4 Change. Leggete di più sul suo sito: www.deltageographic.com

Antonio Amendola

Per maggiori informazioni: www.deltageographic.com




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