The Seldom-Seen Faces Of The 'Humans Of Kabul' : Goats and Soda When Boston photographer David Fox moved to Afghanistan, he began to share pictures and stories about the day-to-day life that rarely gets covered by the press.
NPR logo The Seldom-Seen Faces Of The 'Humans Of Kabul'

The Seldom-Seen Faces Of The 'Humans Of Kabul'

One of the princesses of Kabul. David Fox/Courtesy of Humans of Kabul hide caption

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David Fox/Courtesy of Humans of Kabul

One of the princesses of Kabul.

David Fox/Courtesy of Humans of Kabul

Humans of New York has become a worldwide hit, with hundreds of thousands of people "liking" Brandon Stanton's photos on Facebook — candid shots and candid comments. Among this month's posts: A dad taking his headstrong little daughter for a walk and observing, "This is tougher than the Marine Corps."

HONY, which started in 2010, has given birth to spinoffs around the world, including Bombay, Paris, Tel Aviv — and Humans of Kabul, which offers rarely seen glimpses of ordinary life in Afghanistan.

Boston photographer David Fox has been living in the country since 2013 after moving there for a job with the American University of Afghanistan. Soon he began photographing and chatting with people in the streets of Kabul — from woodcarvers keeping their ancient art alive to young women who defy social norms by riding bikes.

How is business? "Not good. ... Prices are high now. When we buy the fruits and vegetables at a high price, we have to sell them at a high price. And people don't buy when the prices are high. ... I don't have a job during the winter. Whatever I make now has to last for my family through the whole winter." Soraya Afzali/Courtesy of Humans of Kabul hide caption

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Soraya Afzali/Courtesy of Humans of Kabul

How is business? "Not good. ... Prices are high now. When we buy the fruits and vegetables at a high price, we have to sell them at a high price. And people don't buy when the prices are high. ... I don't have a job during the winter. Whatever I make now has to last for my family through the whole winter."

Soraya Afzali/Courtesy of Humans of Kabul

"I used to host a family TV show. I faced a lot of harassment, from relatives, neighbors, and from strangers when I was out of the house. Afghan society is still very conservative, and there are people who cannot accept a woman on TV. Female presenters have been attacked, raped, and even killed for appearing on TV. So now I prefer to be a producer working behind the scenes." David Fox/Courtesy of Humans of Kabul hide caption

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David Fox/Courtesy of Humans of Kabul

"I used to host a family TV show. I faced a lot of harassment, from relatives, neighbors, and from strangers when I was out of the house. Afghan society is still very conservative, and there are people who cannot accept a woman on TV. Female presenters have been attacked, raped, and even killed for appearing on TV. So now I prefer to be a producer working behind the scenes."

David Fox/Courtesy of Humans of Kabul

Every person, Fox believes, has a story to tell. But in Afghanistan, he says, the stories are often overshadowed by news of car bombings, human rights violations and drone warfare. So when he arrived in the country he started Humans of Kabul on Facebook. He wanted to give regular people a place to share their voices. He runs the Facebook page with Soraya Afzali, a photo student at the American University of Afghanistan.

For Fox, Humans of Kabul is more than a collection of cool photos. "These photos challenge the idea that everyone is constantly ducking for cover as a result of the latest gun fight or explosion," he says. "These people are living normal lives, caring about regular things like their children's education, dating, their jobs."

One photo shows a fruit vendor hustling to make enough to support his family through the winter. Another is a close-up of a young Afghan woman, who struggled to adjust to life in Kabul after moving from Pakistan, where her parents were refugees. But she doesn't regret the move: "When we were living in Pakistan, we may have been comfortable, but we did not have big dreams or expectations for ourselves, since we knew we were immigrants."

Among the most popular photos, Fox says, is one he took of an all-girls biking club, started by teens to combat the stigma against women being outside by themselves in Kabul. "We want to bike and bike and bike until people stop staring at us," the caption reads.

"People are fascinated by things that challenge their preconceived notions," Fox says. "That's when I realized people really wanted to see the female Afghan perspective because traditionally in the media, the images that people saw were of women with no voice, no face."

Humans of Kabul, which has about 20,000 followers, has given Fox the chance to practice his photo skills and to learn Dari, one of the main languages spoken in Afghanistan. He says one of the most challenging parts is the interview. "We try to get beyond simple [answers]," he says.

"We are representing a city that is very poorly represented in international media," he adds. "This a country that needs to have human faces put on it."

"I have 90 years of experience in woodcarving and let me tell you, we have to keep this art alive. This is the duty of the youth, and the only way it can be done is by studying this tradecraft professionally. Otherwise it will simply fade away." Soraya Afzali/Courtesy of Humans of Kabul hide caption

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Soraya Afzali/Courtesy of Humans of Kabul

"I have 90 years of experience in woodcarving and let me tell you, we have to keep this art alive. This is the duty of the youth, and the only way it can be done is by studying this tradecraft professionally. Otherwise it will simply fade away."

Soraya Afzali/Courtesy of Humans of Kabul
Correction July 19, 2015

A previous version of this post misidentified Afghanistan as a Middle Eastern country.