Shooting a hundred-year-old camera that is also a darkroom is unusual but this fascinating story becomes more remarkable when you consider that the photographer earned a living for decades creating portraits in Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan. 65 years later, he’s still taking photographs.
“Kamra-e-faoree” means instant camera in Dari, one of Afghanistan’s official languages and spoken by around half of the population. The camera was likely built by a carpenter with designs probably originating from India and catered to the sudden need in the 1950s for Afghan’s to have national identity cards. It wasn’t unusual to find portrait photographers working in Kabul, all using these large devices with a sleeve hanging off the side to prevent light leaks when manipulating the film stock. Smaller images were made by cutting the photographic paper — typically coming from Japan, Russia, or Germany — into pieces.
It’s said that box photography had a second spike in popularity in the early 2000s when the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) ran a scheme to repatriate refugees back from Pakistan. Identity papers required accompanying photographs meaning that photographers in Peshawar — across the border from Afghanistan — were suddenly in demand.
Photography was banned in 1990s when the Taliban came to power and many box cameras were destroyed by photographers in order to avoid punishment in the event that their equipment was discovered.