In the fall of 2001, the award-winning American photojournalist Paula Bronstein traveled to Afghanistan on assignment for Getty Images to document the U.S-led Operation Enduring Freedom in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Captivated by the people of Afghanistan and the rugged beauty of their country’s landscape, Bronstein has made Afghanistan her mission ever since. She has returned to the country repeatedly over the past 15 years to document the lives of the Afghan people against the backdrop of a brutal and protracted war as well as periods of relative peace that saw the birth of a democratic government and gains in freedom and opportunity for women. What sets Bronstein’s photographs apart from many of her peers who have covered the region is her choice to spend most of her time with the Afghan people rather than on embeds with international troops. Her work goes beyond war coverage to reveal the full complexity of daily life in what may be the most reported on, yet least understood country in the world. With empathy born of the challenges of being a female photojournalist working in a conservative Islamic country, Bronstein gives voice to those Afghans, particularly women and children, rendered silent during the violent Taliban regime.
“I have made some of the most extraordinary photos of my career in Afghanistan, with face after face offering a complex and intriguing gaze and revealing the constant tension between optimism and reality that shapes the lives of so many here. I keep going back, motivated and inspired by those faces, pushing against the difficulties, hoping to find fewer doors slamming shut and more people seeing reasons to smile.”
AFGHANISTAN: BETWEEN HOPE AND FEAR, is a Photo book by Paula Bronstein. Foreword by Kim Barker. Essay by Christina Lamb.
University of Texas Press / August 2016