Tuesday, 6 March 2012
Sunday 4th March 2012 - Remembering the first visit to Afghanistan
I had followed this story in the news back home and had found it all very confusing and very far away. Yet now here I was making use of the hospitality of one of those very warlords who had fought against the Taliban. Walking down this dusty road in central Afghanistan, I wondered to myself what exactly did I have in mind? More immediately, would I even be allowed to get my camera out? The only way to know if I had any chance of making any kind of film was to set my camera up and see what the reaction was. A few people stared curiously at me as I walked but most went casually about their early-morning business – tending crops by the roadside, urging donkeys laden with produce towards the bazaar, collecting water in yellow containers from the single stream. At the remains of the larger of the two Buddhas, I stopped. Three Afghan men stood talking, leaning on shovels alongside wheelbarrows. They were clearly about to start a day’s work. The three were exactly what one would have expected Afghan men to look like if your only point of reference was the TV news: turbaned and bearded. ‘Here goes’, I thought. I set up my tripod and slid the camera on to it. The three men turned towards me and picked up their shovels. I smiled nervously while also keeping my hand on the tripod’s quick release button just in case. I pressed ‘record’. A sudden move and the men sprang into action; one jumped into a wheelbarrow and started dancing and the other two began singing.
Then, while I was looking through the lens and marvelling at the unpredictability of human behaviour, something else strange happened. A little child in a colourful hat suddenly stood in front of the camera and stared down the lens. It was a split second and I barely noticed but that was the first time that I saw Mir. It was a fleeting moment but it was enough. That chance moment subsequently led to his face being seen by audiences around the world.
(More on Afghanistan tomorrow...)