Reporting on War in Afghanistan

Virtual event

Date

September 9, 2021
10:00–11:30AM EDT

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Maidan Shahr, Wardak Province, November 2002. Villagers watch then President Karzai return to Kabul. Seamus Murphy/VII.
On 7 October 2001 the United States and its allies launched “Operation Enduring Freedom” with air strikes against Taliban forces in Afghanistan. As part of the Bush administration’s “war on terror” retaliating against those responsible for the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, this military action began what would become America’s longest ever military engagement. 

US forces and NATO troops remained in Afghanistan even after the 2014 handover of security responsibility to Afghan national forces. Now, after the deaths of 47,000 Afghan civilians, 66,000 Afghan police and soldiers, 2,400 US military personnel, 1,100 allied forces – and the expenditure of more than $2 trillion – the Taliban has retaken Afghanistan. 

The collapse of the Afghan government and its military, and the the chaotic withdrawal of western personnel from Afghanistan, was triggered by the Biden administration’s policy of getting all US forces out of Afghanistan by 9 September 2021 (a deadline that was four months later than agreed in the Trump administration’s February 2021 peace deal with the Taliban). The triumph of Taliban forces committed to establishing the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan imperils the human rights of many in the Afghan population whose life had improved somewhat in the last twenty years.

VII Agency was founded a few days before the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, and the first assignment was photographing the aftermath of those attacks, in both the US and Afghanistan. In the last twenty years many VII photographers have reported extensively on the war in Afghanistan, building on work they did in the 1980s and 1990s prior to American involvement.
 
This special event will offer a retrospective of VII’s coverage, with contributions from the late Alexandra Boulat, Ron Haviv, Christopher Morris, Seamus Murphy, and Daniel Schwartz. The discussion will probe the question of how photojournalism visualised the country and the conflict in Afghanistan, and how the work of the VII photographers contributed, for better or worse, to the visual reporting from Afghanistan.

Seamus Murphy

England
, London
Seamus Murphy is the recipient of seven World Press Photo awards for work in Afghanistan, Gaza, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, Peru, and Ireland. He has been exhibited widely and is in the collections of The Getty Museum Los Angeles, Imperial War Museum, Stanford University, FRAC Auvergne, the Incite Project. He has made films for The New Yorker and Channel 4 Television in the UK.

The Estate of Alexandra Boulat

France
, Paris
Alexandra Boulat was born in Paris, France, May 2, 1962, and died in Paris on October 5, 2007. She was originally trained in graphic art and art history at the Beaux Arts in Paris. In 1989, she followed in the steps of her father, photographer Pierre Boulat, who worked for LIFE magazine for 25 years, and became a photojournalist as well. She was represented by Sipa Press for 10 years until 2000.

Daniel Schwartz

Switzerland
, Solothurn

Daniel Schwartz graduated from Zurich School of Arts and Craft (now Zurich University of the Arts) in 1980. He concentrates on book projects, with exhibitions, based on extensive travels, photographic essays, and reportages covering the Eastern Hemisphere from Iran to East Timor, from Turkmenistan to Bangladesh. Schwartz’s art is documentary; it is in the history of places. His journalism is not a reaction to events; it builds on memory.

Christopher Morris

USA
, Tampa
Christopher Morris was born in California in 1958 and began his career as a documentary conflict photographer working almost exclusively for TIME Magazine, where he has been on contract since 1990. He has been credited with redefining political coverage in America during his years working at the White House for TIME Magazine from 2000 till 2009.

Ron Haviv

USA
, New York

Ron Haviv is an Emmy nominated and award-winning photojournalist and co-founder of the VII Agency, dedicated to documenting conflict and raising awareness about human rights issues around the globe. His first photography book, Blood and Honey: A Balkan War Journal, was called “One of the best non-fiction books of the year,” by The Los Angeles Times and “A chilling but vastly important record of a people’s suffering,” by Newsweek.

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