National Geographic

Ed Kashi On Photographing Pakistan

Photographer Ed Kashi has had a busy year.When he wasn't on TV discussing the oil spill — as it pertains to his photo series on oil in the Niger delta — he might have been accepting a Prix Pictet award. Or shooting on assignment in Madagascar. Or shaking hands after joining the prestigious photo agency VII. To top it off, his photos are in National Geographic magazine this month.

  • A festival in Pakistan illustrates the calmer daily life. As Pakistan's wealthiest and most populous province, Punjab is a bellwether for the country's fortunes as it confronts a growing Taliban insurgency. It reflects Pakistan's split personality: one side modern, developed and moderate, the other defined by violence and intolerance.
    Hide caption
    A festival in Pakistan illustrates the calmer daily life. As Pakistan's wealthiest and most populous province, Punjab is a bellwether for the country's fortunes as it confronts a growing Taliban insurgency. It reflects Pakistan's split personality: one side modern, developed and moderate, the other defined by violence and intolerance.
    Ed Kashi/National Geographic
  • A madrassa in Gujranwala is a Deobandi school affiliated with an alliance of religious parties against the American invasion of Afghanistan. They are ideological and political supporters of the Taliban.
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    A madrassa in Gujranwala is a Deobandi school affiliated with an alliance of religious parties against the American invasion of Afghanistan. They are ideological and political supporters of the Taliban.
    Ed Kashi/National Geographic
  • A masked interpreter shares checkpoint duty in a Pashtu-speaking region of Pakistan. A local man, he fears Taliban retribution if he is seen helping the Punjabi-dominated army.
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    A masked interpreter shares checkpoint duty in a Pashtu-speaking region of Pakistan. A local man, he fears Taliban retribution if he is seen helping the Punjabi-dominated army.
    Ed Kashi/National Geographic
  • It may seem surprising, but bold lipstick and dancing are the trademarks of Nida Chaudhry, who performs at Lahore's Al Falah theater. "Whatever we do is the demand of the public," she says. "We ourselves are all Muslims."
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    It may seem surprising, but bold lipstick and dancing are the trademarks of Nida Chaudhry, who performs at Lahore's Al Falah theater. "Whatever we do is the demand of the public," she says. "We ourselves are all Muslims."
    Ed Kashi/National Geographic
  • Villagers hand thresh rice over old metal oil barrels. This land is owned by a local policeman who does not pay these people to work, but instead gives them rice.
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    Villagers hand thresh rice over old metal oil barrels. This land is owned by a local policeman who does not pay these people to work, but instead gives them rice.
    Ed Kashi/National Geographic
  • Scenes at the Sufi shrine of Khwaja Farid, a famous Sufi poet from the 18th century. The shrine was built in 1796 and is one of the most important in this part of the Punjab.
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    Scenes at the Sufi shrine of Khwaja Farid, a famous Sufi poet from the 18th century. The shrine was built in 1796 and is one of the most important in this part of the Punjab.
    Ed Kashi/National Geographic
  • Scenes during Friday prayers at the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore.  This is the second largest mosque in Pakistan and South Asia and the fifth largest mosque in the world.
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    Scenes during Friday prayers at the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore. This is the second largest mosque in Pakistan and South Asia and the fifth largest mosque in the world.
    Ed Kashi/National Geographic

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Yesterday, NPR photographer David Gilkey phoned in from Afghanistan, where he is embedded with the military, in the thick of battle against the Taliban. Today, Ed Kashi reveals what's happening across the border in Pakistan — in the Punjab region, a breeding ground for the Taliban who. Though they're a small percentage of Punjab's population, the Taliban have a huge membership there.

Kashi initially pitched this story with the intention of photographing the respective Punjab regions of Pakistan and India. His idea was to show how the two countries, though often foes, aren't too dissimilar. But the assignment was narrowed to focus just on Pakistan — and even that proved somewhat unwieldy; the Punjab region of Pakistan, Kashi says, is "the size of unified Germany, with 90 million people."

Kashi describes the photo below

Ed Kashi/National Geographic i i
Ed Kashi/National Geographic
Ed Kashi/National Geographic
Ed Kashi/National Geographic

As a photographer, his goal was simple: show how the people of Punjab live, and how that would be threatened if the Taliban were to prevail. The region may be a hotbed for religious fundamentalism, but it's also home to the more peaceful sect of Sufism, and millions more people just trying to live their lives. Listen to Kashi discuss the assignment and the challenges of being a photographer in a world that can be, let's face it, flat-out depressing.

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