AfghanistanNot a bad spot to watch the sun set with the fellas and a thermos full of tea. The Jalalabad Road, Afghanistan. Andrew Quilty / Oculi. 5.1.2014
Afghanistan Not a bad spot to watch the sun set with the fellas and a thermos full of tea. The Jalalabad Road, Afghanistan. 1.5.2014Andrew Quilty—Oculi
AfghanistanNot a bad spot to watch the sun set with the fellas and a thermos full of tea. The Jalalabad Road, Afghanistan. Andrew Quilty / Oculi. 5.1.2014
Darulaman Palace, KabulFrom last week's @burndiary contribution. This was taken from the top floor of the bombed out Darulaman Palace in southern Kabul. Security guards played volleyball in the forecourt of the nearly 100 year old palace which has been out of action since the final death-blows of the Afghan civil war of the 90s. Andrew Quilty / Oculi. 30.1.2014.
Lashkar Gah, Helmand, Afghanistan. In Boost Hospital in the provincial capital, a young girl who suffered burns to over 50% of her body lies in an observation room after an accident with an oil lamp at home. Boost Hospital is administered by Medicines Sans Frontiers. MSF provides all the equipment and pharmaceuticals as well as staff, including 18 ex-pat medical and admin staff. And these guys work HARD. Andrew Quilty / Oculi. 18.2.2014
Shahre-A-Naw, Kabul, AfghanistanBeauty Salon. Kabul, Afghanistan. Andrew Quilty / Oculi. 6.1.2014
Afshar, Kabul, AfghanistanSorry to those who've already seen this but for those who haven't, follow me over at @burndiary where I've been given the run of the account for the week. This was a post from two days ago (them's the rules at @burndiary) of a fire that had taken hold in a scrap-metal yard that Claire and I drove by on our way home from the passport office. The orange smoke? From burning styrofoam. I wonder if it was toxic at all? Andrew Quilty / Oculi. 27.1.2014
Taimani, Kabul, AfghanistanAnother 2 day old post from @burndiary, where I've taken over the account for the week. This one was from early in the morning, not far from my little guesthouse. The man on the left had lost a leg to a land mine and since setup shop as a hair dresser in a tiny roadside shack where he was able to work without needing to stand. Andrew Quilty / Oculi. 28.1.2014.
The Panjshir Valley, AfghanistanAfter a day of #hunting through the sparse copses along the #Panjshir #River, he proudly handed me his #shotgun, turning it so I'd see the "Made in #Russia" engraving along the barrel. It certainly wasn't the only piece of #military hardware that found its way from the #Soviet Union to the Panjshir Valley. It's length is strewn with the carcasses hundreds of late 20th century #tanks, #helicopters, armored personnel carriers and large calibre #artillery #weapons that were either destroyed upon entry to the valley or had been seized in raids on the nearby #Salang #Highway which served as the Soviet's main supply route to the capital, #Kabul, during their occupation between 1979 - 1989. Andrew Quilty / Oculi. 25.1.2014
Company, KabulThe #road to #Kandahar from #Kabul begins at a place called #Company, where much of the #livestock that feeds the #capital is bought and #sold. Being the funnel through which all traffic must pass to get to Kandahar, it's also a Talib/al-Qaeda hotspot. Spotters will look for foreigners or #wealthy #Afghans and #radio ahead down the road with vehicle details to one of his #friends who will wait for you with a welcoming committee - Talib-style. Andrew Quilty / Oculi. 8.1.2014.
#Girls on #piano in #Afghanistan. Not dissimilar to throwing a shoe at a #president in the #US.12/22/2013
Sement Khana, Kabul, Afghanistan#Cricket in #Kabul. Under the watchful eye of Uncle Sam Cam above.
Bird Market, Kabul Afghanistan#Friday morning madness at the #bird #market. #Kabul, #Afghanistan.12/13/2013
Company, Kabul, AfghanistanDog Fights. One of a handful of winter blood-sports that draw a crowd to various locations on the outskirts of Kabul each Friday. Andrew Quilty / Oculi. 7.2.2014.
Kabul RiverIf there's a dry bank within the walls of the Kabul River there's a good chance you'll find it occupied by a dozen or more bedraggled men, hunched under blankets with needles and burnt foil scattered all around. This afternoon, just as many had gathered on the road above to watch. The addicts protested feebly and without effect. Andrew Quilty / Oculi. 18.4.2014
Shamzi Plaza, Kabul, AfghanistanSoccer field turned swimming pool.Andrew Quilty / Oculi 9.4.2014.
Wazir Abad, Kabul, AfghanistanNot every day you see a Volks Wagen in Afghanistan. Andrew Quilty / Oculi. 20.4.2014.
Afghanistan Not a bad spot to watch the sun set with the fellas and a thermos full of tea. The Jalalabad Road, Afghanist

Andrew Quilty—Oculi
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#LightBoxFF: Andrew Quilty on Learning to Love Instagram

May 02, 2014

Welcome to this week’s edition of TIME’s LightBox Follow Friday, a series where we feature the work of photographers who are using Instagram in new and engaging ways. Each week we will introduce you to the person behind the feed through his or her pictures and share an interview with the photographer.

This week on #LightBoxFF, TIME speaks to photographer Andrew Quilty (@andrewquilty), who is currently in Afghanistan and said he has come to see Instagram as a valuable creative outlet and professional tool despite his initial resistance to it. It was a trial-by-fire commission from TIME that helped him tap into the platform's true potential.

LightBox: How are you using Instagram now, and how has it become a part of your professional practice?

AQ: For Instagram I use photos taken with my phone exclusively. The instantaneousness of being able to shoot, edit and upload on one pocket-sized device is convenient, and it's a way of making a distinction between Instagram and more deliberate, personal or commissioned projects. I'm not precious about photos I take on my phone. I don't really even make a point of backing them up -- for me, they're more like Polaroids that you'd give away. Only you can share these with many more people than you can a Polaroid.

Oct. 17, 2013. Children play at Bondi Beach in Sydney Australia while smoke from massive brush fires rises in the distance.

LightBox: What is the purpose of your feed? What does Instagram provide for you, professionally or creatively, that other platforms don't.

AQ: My feed ebbs and flows, from more personal imagery to street photography and documentary pictures. When I say "personal," though, while I might be personally connected to the people, places or scenarios pictured, I try to make the imagery about the people in the pictures, rather than about me. There's so much narcissism on social media and I'd like to think that my choice -- for the most part -- to depict the lives of others rather than my own is what attracts people to my feed.

LightBox: Why did you start using Instagram, and how has your use of it or understanding of it changed since your first post?

AQ: I'm a total sellout. In fact, I still get heckled by friends who remind me of my former anti-Instagram stance. I signed up when I was asked to do so by TIME's Paul Moakley. I was in New York as Hurricane Sandy was approaching and decided to get on a train headed for the spot where Sandy was predicted to make landfall on the Jersey Shore. Once there I put out feelers for commissions. Via Facebook I saw Paul was looking for photographers on the East Coast to cover the hurricane. Part of the deal was that I sign up to Instagram and file to TIME's feed -- along with four other photographers I admired hugely.
 It was a bit of a baptism by fire, but the logistical difficulties were nothing compared to negotiating this photo app that I'd been so fervently opposed to up to that point. The thrill of posting a photo to the hundreds of thousands of followers of the TIME feed definitely played a hand in getting me hooked.

An image Quilty submitted to TIME's Instagram feed in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Oct. 30, 2012.

LightBox: Which of your posts has inspired the most audience feedback and engagement? Why do you think that photo got people's attention, and do you agree with it?

AQ: The most feedback I've had was for an image of a baby girl wrapped in a golden space blanket lying on a hospital bed in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan. She'd suffered severe burns after an accident with an oil heater at home. It was this particular post which really emphasized the potential of Instagram for me. For one thing, I was quite overwhelmed and heartened to see how much the image affected people. They wanted to know more about the little girl. Did she survive? Could they send gifts? It was definitely one of the more positive moments I can remember of my time as a photographer. At the time I left the hospital the next day, the little girl was expected to make a full recovery.
 Conversely, as well as the wonderful reactions of most, when I post something confrontational like that, I'll also notice that a number of people will unfollow me.
 This is unfortunate and probably indicative of the times in which we live, where many prefer to bury their heads in the sand and not have their day interrupted by something that's unpleasant, by something real.

LightBox: When did you hit your stride with Instagram? Was there a moment where you crossed a threshold, and your perspective on the platform changed?

AQ: I think the biggest threshold for me was simply joining Instagram. I really embraced Instagram when I realized that people actually respond to photographs that are not self-indulgent or self-aggrandizing.

LightBox: Do you envision Instagram ever losing its appeal, and if so how would you replace it?

AQ: I'm sure something will eventually usurp Instagram. Photography itself is the constant for me. Its principles have barely changed since the camera obscura was theorized more than 2,000 years ago. However, at the rate technology evolves these days, a bigger (or smaller, as the case may be) and better means of delivering images will come along soon enough. That's for the next Zuckerberg to think about. At the end of the day, I'm a photographer, and as important as distribution is, for me what will always remain will be the simple act of seeing something and making it into a photograph.

Andrew Quilty is a documentary photographer and member of the Oculi photo collective

Krystal Grow is a writer for TIME LightBox

See more from TIME’s #LightBoxFF series here

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