Clouds and Poplars – Unlike all the others; this shows the solitude, grandeur and beauty of the natural aspects of Afghanistan. A sole Afghan is walking the road to --- where?
This is how I would die
into the love I have for you:
as pieces of cloud
dissolve in sunlight.
All Rumi verses compliments of
and © Coleman Barks, All rights reserved.
Humaira Ghilzai of
Afghan Culture Unveiled interviews Joe Hoyt about this historical exhibit:
Humaira: What does it mean to you to have these photos exhibited in Afghanistan?
This is an interesting opportunity to actually see what impact the images have
after all. Unlike in the west, photographs do not have an aspect to them where
they are viewed as art or have innate historical significance.
Some of the most appreciative audiences have been Afghans living in the United
States. The thing is, the photos are likely to be viewed by individuals who
have not seen images of what their very own country was like before 35 plus
years of war and upheaval. I’m sure some
aspects will seem more or less what they experience even today.
As international forces are set to leave Afghanistan in
2014, I would hope the collection will help set the stage to engender ethnic
co-operation, pride in national identity, appreciation for the rich and
remarkable history of the nation the resilience of the Afghan people.
Humaira: Why do you think there is so much interest in your
photos? After all, over the past 12
years many new photographers and filmmakers have created beautiful work in
Afghanistan. What intrigues people about
Clearly, mine are compelling because of the era – well before the nation was
overrun by the Russians and before the civil war, before the Taliban and before
foreign occupation. I am unaware of any other vintage collections from that time
period being toured around for exhibition.
the key factor is they are for the most part black and white. They are riveting because they are personal,
they are honest, un-posed, they are candid and in the moment captures. All are in natural light and taken
one-on-one; perhaps it is even because they are naïve and unadorned. I was a 21
– 22 year old using my wits and, dare I say charm, to approach common people to
take their photos. The trust shows in
the subject’s faces (most of the time anyway). You do not see the hollow-eyed
visages visible in so many images taken during the years of terror and fear.
Humaira: How did you go from creating the booklet to finding
exhibits around the U.S. and in Europe?
Joe: After San Francisco where we met, I came away encouraged the exhibition would
have wider interest, but had no idea how to go about marketing it. I found a group specializing in traveling
photo exhibits and contracted with them.
They booked some exhibits but I mostly arrange them myself. Some US
universities might be a good place. And
I’d love to do an exhibit in DC and maybe San Francisco again!
Humaira: Tell us about your collaboration with Coleman Barks
(Rumi expert and student of Sufism) for this exhibit.
Joe: In May 2012, I sent a letter to Mr. Barks that included a
copy of my book. I told him about my
photos, the intent of my work and so on. I asked if he might be interested in
and have time to match up some Rumi quatrains with my photos.
months later I received a reply. He
thought the photos were great, but did not have time. He sent a copy of The Big Red Book as a really nice gift.
months later Coleman (we now use our first names) changed course and sent me
four quatrains! Some time went by – I received more! Some unpublished verses! I used them in an exhibit at the local museum
when the work was exhibited.
You can see six of the
verses on my website. To date, I have received 16
verses selected to go along with certain photos. The others will be posted soon.