Kabul, Afghanistan

My Afghan Polaroid

Wandering the back streets of Kabul I found myself on Passport lane where Afghan citizens go to have their photos taken for government ID’s. After watching the photographer at work with a couple of subjects, I fell in line to have my photo take as well. The process was slow, about 10 to 15 minutes to shoot, develop and print a photo for each customer. Which gave me the time to study and admire the work of this real street photographer. The Afghan box camera is a giant handmade wooden box known as the kamra-e-faoree, meaning “instant camera” – I call it the “Afghan Polaroid”. Working with only natural light the photographer uses a 35-millimeter camera lens attached to the front of the box and instead of clicking the shutter, the photographer removes the lens cap for a second and replaces it. Inside the box camera is an entire darkroom – paper, developer and fixer. After the latent image is exposed to a sheet of photographic paper, the photographer inserts his hand into the box through a cut-off pants leg designed to keep out light that would ruin the print.

He develops the image by moving the paper through two trays, one holding developer and the other fixer, to create a paper negative. He then makes another exposure, which converts the negative image into a positive print. It was truly impressive to watch how smooth and precise the photographer worked.

Having been briefly banned along with music and paper bags by the Taliban the kamra-e-faoree camera is in danger of disappearing again as digital cameras become more common place in Kabul.

Lukas Birk is well aware of the historical signifiants of the Afghan street photographers and their camera. Mr.Birk  has creating the Afghan Box Camera Project. For any photographer who appreciates the history of cameras and film this is a worth while cause. Link:http://www.afghanboxcamera.com/

I waited to see if the women was going to remove her burka for the photo, she never did.

“My legs are killing me and I hate these fuck’ing crutches, I’m sick and tired of this bullshit man !  

Where the fuck did my life go? 

Believe it or not, I was young man once, wild hair and just fuck’ing crazy at times, but that was when I was a young man. I stole motorcycles, drank beer, and howled at the moon. 

I was a chick magnet seducing them like bees to a honey pot, I was the stud, brash and brazen, but that was when I was young man. 

I smoked Marlboro Red’s and worn button fly Levi’s jeans and combed my hair with Brylcreem. 

I had a need for speed with asphalt scares to prove it, but that was when I was a young man once.

I sacked grocery at Safeway and bought my first car, a 49 Ford. It was my Hot Rod with stolen Baby Moon Hubcaps, Roll-and-Tuck black leather seats and a Hurst shifter topped with a pool hall 8 ball…do you want to drag and hear my glass-packs? 

I was reckless and insane at times but beer was my friend when times got tough. 

Let me tell you this, I never wore a watch because I had all the time in the world, but now as I grew older or should I say when my body grew older. I lost some abilities to do as I please. 

But deep within me is a spirit that is harum-scarum and ready to fight…. even if it’s with the aid of these damn crutches. I was a young man once full of piss and vinegar. 

My advise to you, find your speed, maintain your velocity, keeping it up and keep it consistent my friends.”

Palestinian Territory / Israel. The city on the hill is Bethlehem, this image was taken before the Israeli bulldozers destroyed the rock wall and the olive tree in the foreground. Then a concrete wall of 8 meters (26 ft) high was constructed in this Holy place. The West Bank “separation barrier” or “security fence” or “apartheid wall” or “anti-terrorist fence,” depending on whom you ask, is the largest infrastructure project in Israel’s history. Upon completion, its total length will be approximately 700 kilometers (430 mi). The annual costs is approximately $260 million to maintain the wall. It is said that “If the olive tree knew the hands that planted them, their oil would have become tears.”

In mountaineering, there is a phenomenon known as ‘Summit Fever’ in which the heightened anticipation of summiting out weighs all reasoning. It is a step into the Twilight Zone where one’s critical faculties take a leave of absence and reckless decision making begins. The boiling frog story is often used as a metaphor for the inability of people to perceive significant changes that occur gradually –  the premise is that if a frog is placed  in cold water that is slowly heated, the animal will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.

In Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air,  he describes climbers so intoxicated by the drive to get to the summit that the common sense of survival gets discarded even when exhaustion, dehydration and  bad weather becomes overwhelmingly evident – not to mention the absence of  fellow climbers who have met their death.  

Summit fever is not only limited to the tallest peaks in the world but can be found anywhere the human spirit is challenged- including the Sahara Desert. 

It has been called the toughest footrace on earth, The Marathon des Sables. Competitors have described the event as running on the surface of the sun. The  race is  held each year in Morocco over six-days covering  254 km which is the equivalent to six regular  marathons. Competitors must carry all personal belongings and food for the entire event in their backpacks. Water, tents and medical support are supplied by the race organizers. During the 1994 race,  Carabinieri (Italian police officer) Mauro Properi lost his way during a sand storm. Not wishing to endure a long drawn out death of dehydration, Mauro attempted to commit suicide in an abandoned mosque by cutting his wrists. The attempt failed – lack of water had caused Mauro’s blood to congeal the wound before the blood could escape his emaciated body. Nine days later he was found by a nomadic family and taken to an Algerian military camp. Mauro was nearly 200 miles off route.

Whether in the mountains, oceans or deserts for many adventurers the ultimate goal is to finish – at any cost. 

” I think that if you see me crawling I might be in trouble, but until then I think I’m okay.” Triathlete Felicia Wilkerson, competitor # 378, Marathon des Sables.

 





Asleep and protected from the desert heat and drunk predators, Donna finds refuge on a city  bus in  Las Vegas. She wears gold shoes with a white jump suit that is divided by a belt with sea  shells glued to it. Donna’s hair is resting on the top of her head with a gold comb parked in front. She has grown accustom of sleeping over the sound of the diesel engine, air brakes and the frequent stops. Her head rolls from side to side with every turn the bus makes as it travels the back streets of Las Vegas. At first glance, Donna looks as if she has been shopping but the plastic bags are full of clothing and personal hygiene items which props her up right to a vertical sleep. The bags are her only worldly possessions.

A black man sitting next to Donna stares out the window to the lights of the casinos and hotels. He clutches a paper bag. He has no rings on his fingers or a watch on his wrist. His attention is focused on the world outside the window. Here, they are both protected from the elements of Las Vegas and lost in their own world.

Seemingly unconscious of my presence there is a moment between silence and mid-note that my lens captures Randys silhouette. He rehearses, then pauses to contemplate a melodic and rhythmic pattern. He continues to rehearse filling the room with waves of invisible sentiment. To the ear its blues, cool, romantic and yet a feeling of expressing pensive sadness. The rehearsal room turns blue.

A tattered piece of napkin is fused to the formica table top creating a semi circle from where the glass syrup dispenser sat. Frank’s forearm is momentarily glued to the table.

Frank fishes for an ice cube from his water and begins to mop the sugary halo.

The sound of leather and metallic tapping off the chrome bass of the table escalates.  Frank’s restless legs syndrome telegraphs his anxiety. 

“Okay Frank, this is just between you and I…..okay?” 

He nods yes.

“What I understand is that you can’t stop it or shut it down, you can only strap yourself in and go for the ride, you are no longer in the drivers seat. I hate to tell you this, but your guardian angel is helpless and can only watch and maybe drop words of comfort and gently remind you in a sweet whisper that your fucked my friend. You texted me that It started with awareness that your pill box organizer is not lying. Not that the medication is gone or forgotten but each container labeled with each day of the week are still full. It’s just not the loss of time but the loss of days. Is that right Frank?”

Again Frank nods yes. His hand trembles while still holding the ice cube.

“Frank, there are no magic beans here that is going to cure you. It’s a sad affair my friend. What can I do now while you are still cognitive?”

Frank’s eyes wonder over to the woman cashier as the line of customers grows while waiting for a table. He avoids eye contact with me as the truth of his situation becomes a reality. 

Frank becomes aware that he is still holding the cube of water.

“Frank look at me, what can I do to help you?”

Franks eyes tears up. He clasps his hands so tight that his knuckles turn white. Frank doesn’t know whether to be angry or heartbroken. The tapping grows louder from underneath the table and suddenly stops. Franks face becomes blank and pale as his emotions fade away. Receding and lost in the chasm of his mind, his soul is swallowed by the bottomless abyss. Frank then disappears from our table.  

After a midnight shoot in Hollywood at The House of Blues, I packed my camera gear and headed back to my car that was parked two blocks away on Sunset Boulevard. A block away from my car I came upon the Saint of Sunset sitting on a small swatch of old red carpeting with his back resting against a chain link fence. As I approach he looked up and with bright eyes and a smile he said, “Good evening my friend.”
“And a good evening to you my friend and how is life treating you this fine evening?” I asked.
“Better now that you are here”, he said, “would you like a blessing?”
“yes indeed,” I replied.
Closing his eyes the Saint bowed his head whispering, “My friend and I are but actors in a theatre called earth, our stage is small but it is here where we rehears our play of life before the curtain closes. Blessings my friend.”