A man looks out of the window as he travels on a bus in downtown Kabul.
VIEW GALLERY | 12 PHOTOS
A man looks out of the window as he travels on a bus in downtown Kabul.Lorenzo Tugnoli
A man looks out of the window as he travels on a bus in downtown Kabul.
Women walk on the street in the old city in Kabul.
A worker stitches a patchwork carpet in one of Rahim Walizada’s factories in Kabul.
Arifa, a student at the Center for Contemporary Arts Afghanistan, poses for one of her colleagues’ art work.
Students draw and paint in the library of the Center for Contemporary Arts Afghanistan.
Two actors of the Afghanistan National Theater on stage during the rehearsals of a play.
The building under restoration of the Afghanistan National Theater.
Young skaters practice in the garden of the Institut Français d’Afghanistan during the Sound Central Music Festival.
Kabul Dreams play during the shooting of the official video for their song Good morning freedom.
Young men cheer during a performance of the heavy metal band District Unknown at the Institut Français d’Afghanistan during the Sound Central Music Festival.
Men gather to pray after the weekly session of the Pashto Poetry Society in Kabul.
An actress runs through the ruins of Darulaman Palace during the recording of a music video filmed by Jump Cut, a collective of young independent film-makers.
A man looks out of the window as he travels on a bus in downtown Kabul.
Lorenzo Tugnoli
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Follow the Everyday Lives of Artists in Kabul

Oct 27, 2014

When photographer Lorenzo Tugnoli and writer Francesca Recchia started making The Little Book of Kabul -- a crowd-funded work chronicling the lives of artists in the Afghan capital -- they weren't sure what they wanted it to look like. But they were definitely sure what they didn't want it to portray.

"One of the things that we didn't want was an exotic dimension," says Recchia, an independent researcher and writer. "An 'Oh my God, you work in Kabul!' moment."

And what is an "Oh my God" moment? Think visual and written tropes often present in Western coverage of life in Afghanistan, they say: images of battle-ravaged towns or descriptions of foreign troops patrolling desolate landscapes.

This book, they hoped, would be a little different.

"It was important to navigate around the idea of cliches," says Tugnoli, a freelance photojournalist who often works for The Wall Street Journal. "Working in country like Afghanistan as a photographer, if I [produced] a book focusing on stereotypes, it would be a failure."

Having lived in Kabul for three years, the two were familiar with its community of artists, one struggling to preserve a sense of normality on a day-to-day basis. They wanted to look at how these artists worked in the lead up to the 2014 transition -- in which responsibility for security in Afghanistan is being transferred from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force to the Afghan National Security Forces.

And so Tugnoli and Recchia embedded themselves with local bands such as Kabul Dreams, and with actors, art students and skaters; becoming, they say, a part of the community.

What emerged was a book telling the story of local creatives through a series of Tugnoli's images juxtaposed with Recchia's reporting. The finished work is small in size, they add, because they wanted The Little Book to be an accessible, yet in-depth, document of a constantly-evolving community.

"It wasn't a matter of interviewing someone or taking a picture and then leaving," Recchia says,"it's really quite an intimate perspective on people's lives."

Lorenzo Tugnoli is a photographer who has been published in The Wall Street Journal and Francesca Recchia is an independent researcher and writer. Read more about The Little Book of Kabul.

Richard Conway is reporter/producer for TIME LightBox

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