The Afghan Box Camera is a simple box-shaped wooden camera traditionally used by photographers working from a street pitch, who produce, by-and-large, instant identity portraits (aks: عکس) for their clients. In Dari the camera is known as kamra-e-faoree .which means ‘instant camera’. It’s also less frequently called kamra-e-faoree-e-chobi (instant wooden camera) or kamra-e-chobi (wooden camera). In Pashtu the camera is sometimes referred to as da lastunri kamra (sleeve camera: دلستوڼی کیمرہ) because of the sleeve on the side of the camera that photographers insert their arm into.
Customers pose for photographs sitting on a chair against a material backdrop. The lens of kamra-e-faoree are shutterless, so in order to take a photograph, and working only with natural light, the photographer (called akass [عکاس]) whisks away the lens cap with one hand to expose the photographic paper on the inside of the camera; he then replaces the shutter and inserts an arm through a light-tight sleeve giving him access to the camera’s interior which doubles as a darkroom. Inside the camera, he develops a paper negative of the image he has just taken. He then shoots this negative (‘film’) to make the positive (‘positive’), and finally develops the positive to produce a finished photograph.
Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan is often called the spiritual home of the Taliban. It is also a home to thousands of NATO troops who, alongside Afghan soldiers, do daily battle with Taliban fighters. Kandahar province is a place where it pays to stay quiet. That is not Maryam Durani’s way. As the owner and operator of a radio station that focuses on women’s issues and as a member of the Kandahar provincial council, Durani stands up for the region’s women with remarkable bravery. She is, inevitably, a target for the Taliban, who believe in a highly restricted role for women in Afghan society, and has survived several assassination attempts.
During a U.S. State Department ceremony in March, Durani stood between Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton as Clinton described Durani’s work and presented her with one of the department’s annual International Women of Courage awards. The clip is on YouTube for any Taliban commander with a computer to watch. Durani sees that not as a reason to fear but as an opportunity for defiance.