Surrounded by photos

We have been silent for a while: photo editing and writing are slow crafts that require time and concentration.

The book is finally taking shape, a shape we are learning to recognise and a shape that often catches us by surprise. Months of research are gaining their own voice in ways that we were not necessarily fully expecting. We are soaking in a professional pleasure made of a mix of hard work and serendipity. We are enjoying a listening attitude towards both photos and words. They are taking the lead, we are happy to follow. Lorenzo likes to say: “Images are mysterious objects that change in front of our eyes depending on our moods. We need to spend time with them, let them chose us, let them tell us all the stories they want to tell.” 

We have now began the last phase of the production of the book and the past few days have been dedicated to reaching the final selection of photos. A few mornings ago, Lorenzo leaves early and comes home with two thick paper bags – he has gone to the photo lab in the city centre and come back with 313 black and white 12 x 15 printouts. The excitement is hard to contain: after so many months, it is the first time that we hold in our hands somethings physical that shows the reality of our work. We leave the photos there for a while nevertheless and fully enjoy the feeling of anticipation. We then start laying them down in an order, but we soon realise that the table is too small, we need more space, a lot more space. 

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It is a wonderfully overwhelming feeling: how will we find our way around SO many photos?

The only feasible option is to use the floor; Lorenzo’s bedroom is the biggest, we pack all we may need and move there. We need a soundtrack first of all, we choose a concert by Kronos Quartet with Homayun Sakhi Trio: fusion Afghan music may be of inspiration – and of comfort considering that we have picked one of the hottest day in the past three decades to do the job. We take over all the available floor space, leaving only just enough margin to move around the photos. They are so may though that we don’t even fully manage and end up finding ourselves accidentally walking over them and have to peel them off our feet. Profusely sweating, we continue anyways: we spread different bunches in different corners: here is Kabul street views, there are the Kabul Dreams, and the Centre for Contemporary Art Afghanistan and over there the Afghan National Theatre. We squat on the floor and start to order the photos trying to make connections and creating some kind of initial narrative. Lorenzo often emphasises the challenges of building a coherent and captivating photographic essay: “Individual images acquire different forms and meanings when juxtaposed to others. Each image is no longer just its own self, but it becomes part of a story. In this process, it is incredible to witness how certain images would gain strength and others lose it in relation to the sequence. They are influenced by the context, by the images that stand before or after them. Details that seemed irrelevant at an earlier may eventually become the main reason for choosing one particular photo. The beginning is always the toughest moment. With time and work everything acquires a meaning that does not belong exclusively to us, but to the images themselves”. 

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Writing and photo editing share an important, yet painful craft: they are about building as much as they are about letting go. As it has happened many times before, working on this book has been a life learning experience. We are learning to listen to a greater beauty and accept to sacrifice the immediate reward of the toil of our work for the sake of a lasting, profound coherence.

Adding another pearl of wisdom Lorenzo concludes: “We need to give it time – and have faith”. 

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2 thoughts on “Surrounded by photos

  1. So happy to see this project coming together for you. I am so fortunate to have watched this journey in person. I’ve learned a lot along the way and can’t wait to see the book, It’s going to be a fantastic addition to the living room… A Little Book of Kabul, and a little piece of this journey–forever in my home.

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