Unexpected Afghanistan: Images Give People A Voice : The Picture Show When people see Seamus Murphy's photographs they often remark that they don't look like Afghanistan. "When I hear these reactions," he says, "I feel I may have achieved something."
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Unexpected Afghanistan: Images Give People A Voice

The word "Afghanistan" often conjures up images of war and violence. But photographer Seamus Murphy tends to do his own thing, and maybe that's why his perspective seems so personal and unique: In addition to guns and blood, his photos show smiles and families and dinners and all the things you'd expect to see in any complex culture.

"What draws me and countless others back again and again to Afghanistan," he writes in an email, "are personal experiences with the Afghan people."

Irish-born and London-based, Murphy has been photographing in Afghanistan since 1994; his work earned him the World Understanding Award (POYi) and the images were published as a book, A Darkness Visible: Afghanistan. Now he is working on a movie.

"I often hear from people looking at my work: 'But that doesn't look like Afghanistan, or America or England.' Or: 'But so many of these photographs show Afghans as happy,'" he writes. "Maybe what they mean is that they don't look ... the way they have seen them or expect to see them. When I hear these reactions I feel I may have achieved something."

An Uzbek farmer relaxes in a field after a day's harvest, Takhar Province, 2004. Seamus Murphy hide caption

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Seamus Murphy

Murphy says too often Afghanistan is viewed through the prism of outside interests.

"I was there last year to shoot footage and to film interviews for a multimedia film I am producing," he said. "Like all my work in Afghanistan, it will focus on the Afghan people themselves. In reality, they are seldom heard."

Murphy is raising money to go toward the film, which will be produced in concert with MediaStorm, a Brooklyn-based multimedia company. "My mission," his fundraising page reads, "is to promote an understanding of this mysterious, complex and fascinating culture."