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Afghan Box Camera Project The Afghan Box Camera is a simple type of box-shaped wooden camera, traditionally used by photographers working from a regular street pitch, who by-and-large produce instant identity portraits for their clients. In the Dari language of Afghanistan the camera is known as the kamra-e-faoree, which means 'instant camera'. The hand-made wooden camera which is both camera and darkroom in one has been used by generations of Afghans who have had their portraits taken with it, usually for identity photographs. The camera uses a paper negative process and has a shutterless lens. In order to take a photograph, the photographer whisks away the lens cap with one hand to expose the photographic paper on the inside of the camera, 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 and re-shoots this negative to make a positive, finally developing the positive to produce a finished photograph.
In this exhibition, we have provided a range of images which focus on the process of using the cameras, the designs of the camera, and the photographers. Box camera photography in Afghanistan, however, exists within a wider and more sophisticated history of analogue photography - and nowadays digital photography. The same photographers plying their trade with the humble kamra-e-faoree may well have been making large format black and white portraits and colouring them in with exquisite artistry by hand. For this reason, you will find a few images in this exhibition which incorporate the wider photographic world that Afghan box camera photography strived beside for decades.
The aim of the Afghan Box Camera Project is to provide a record of the kamra-e-faoree which as a living form of photography is on the brink of disappearing in Afghanistan. After a successful 2011 trip to Afghanistan to research these cameras we published our research online for all to access, and more information and details on the camera can be found on the project website. In May 2012 we intend to return to Afghanistan to explore further the story of Afghan photography. From February 1st to March 30th we will be fundraising for the project on the crowd-funding platform KICKSTARTER.COM. Any support is wholeheartedly welcome to help us continue telling this story.
Lukas Birk & Sean Foley
KickStarter - Afghan Box Camera Project 2012