The dying arts of kamra-e-faoree "instant" photographs and hand tinting photos in Afghanistan
May 9, 2012 10:51 AM   Subscribe

"From photography’s earliest days, enterprising practitioners realized they could take their services directly to the people. This lead to the horse-drawn wagons called “Daguerreotype Salons” and then to portable, darkroom tents that allowed wet-plate photographers to make pictures outside. As technology advanced, the tents morphed into a single apparatus that combined both camera and darkroom, which allowed photographers to work anywhere. Afghanistan is one of the last places where street vendor photographers still use such a hand-made, wooden camera called kamra-e-faoree or “instant camera.” Observing this practice lead photographer Lukas Birk & anthropologist Sean Foley to undertake the Afghan Box Camera Project." - Photo Technique Magazine introduction to an interview with Lukas Birk

Birk and Foley came across kamra-e-faorees on research trips in Afghanistan, and they realized they were seeing the end of a long tradition. Operators of the "Afghan Box Cameras" were either unable to afford to continue the traditional practice, or were simply replacing the old, complex cameras with modern, digital systems. Birk and Foley began documenting what they found, setting up the Afghan Box Camera website, with information on the last practitioners of the art. The duo also filmed the kamra-e-faoree in action, as well as documenting one of the last hand-tinting artists. They plan to travel to Peshawar in Pakistan to document refugee Afghan photographers, thanks to a successful Kickstarter project.

Given the relative simplicity of the system, Birk and Foley provide a guide to making your own "box camera" in 15 pages (PDF).

Fading Afghanistan is a related project, put together by Kris Lizak (Polish) and Khalil Ahmad Arab (Afghan) to collect photos from former Afghan street photographers. Their website currently has 143 portraits (Flash-based image viewer).
posted by filthy light thief (4 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
posted by carping demon at 11:33 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Interesting. The idea of using the box as both camera and developing station goes back at least to the Lumiere brothers.
posted by starman at 11:39 AM on May 9, 2012

As recently as 1994, at least, there were guys doing this in front of the Mogamma building in downtown Cairo. I needed some passport-sized photos for some bit of bureaucratic something-or-other, and wound up with some weirdly timeless black and whites. So these are the last practitioners, eh? How sad.
posted by mumkin at 7:50 PM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Belatedly, this is cool.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:57 PM on May 14, 2012

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