Some of the best rugs we see these days are being woven in the small towns and villages of Afghanistan, a country that has seen war for half a century. We might ask ourselves: who are these people that not only find the courage to endure, but are capable of producing such profound works of artistic beauty?
Many people forget that the Afghans are a people of poetry and art — a people of tolerance and ingenuity whose unique traditions date back over a thousand years. While doing some research for a customer on the Hazara tribal weavers of the Bamyan region, I came across some photos that seemed to capture the beauty of the Afghan people in a way I had not thought possible.
In 1973, a painter by the name of Luke Powell visited Afghanistan for the first time and found himself in awe of the visual imagery around him. However, his attempts to sketch what he saw attracted so much attention that he found it hard to work, so he started experimenting with a camera. Luckily for the world of photography, Luke found he had a wonderful talent behind the lens.
The photographs Luke took in Afghanistan throughout the 70s, particularly those known as “The Afghan Folio”, rank as some of the most captivating travel photographs ever taken. The Afghan Folio is reputed to be “the most widely traveled photography exhibit of the 20th century”, having been exhibited in the Smithsonian, the United Nations European Headquarters, the Royal Ontario Museum, and the Manesh Exhibition Hall in Moscow among others.
I encourage everyone who has an interest in Afghanistan and the Afghan people visit Luke Powell’s website, where you can view hundreds of his photos, including The Afghan Folio and his more recent work in the refugee camps of Aghanistan and Pakistan.
Unfortunately Luke Powell’s website has been down for some time, but here is a small selection of his work.