“i had no intention of doing a long-term project,” murphy
explains in the multimedia production, which includes video
clips of the photographer giving his first-person perspective
on the story. he found himself engaged by the afghan people, who were “extraordinarily kind and gracious,” as well as
by their history and struggles, which reminded him in some
ways of his native ireland.
afghanistan was also a challenge to photograph, because
it was so dangerous and because the authorities—various
warlords at first, and finally the Taliban in 1996—frowned
upon photography. but civilians and even some fighters
were willing to be photographed “so long as people didn’t see,” murphy says.
by the time the u.s. invaded afghanistan in 2001, a month after the 9/11 attacks,
murphy had made four trips. from the start, he roved among the farmers, street ven-
dors and people “getting on with their lives,” while relying on local contacts to help
him weigh the dangers. he has since made a total of 14 trips to afghanistan, always
moving about independently, in contrast to most other journalists who rely on military
embeds for safety.
he doesn’t dismiss the risks, but says foreigners have been conditioned to overes-
timate the dangers by the security contractors they have come to depend upon for
protection. murphy’s insistence on traveling independently distinguishes his perspec-
tive—and his work. “it was afghans i was dealing with. That was always the story i was
interested in,” he says.
he won po Yi’s world understanding award for his afghanistan work in 2005. saqi
Seamus Murphy and MediaStorm have expanded the photographer’s
16-year Afghanistan project into a multimedia production that
interweaves a clear account of the nation’s recent history with the
story of one enduring family. By David Walker
The new mulTimedia produc Tion of “afghanisTan: a darkness Visible”
presents seamus murphy’s 2008 book by the same title in an entirely new dimension.
combining murphy’s black-and-white photographs with historical news footage and
contemporary interviews, the half-hour multimedia production from mediastorm of-
fers a lucid account of a national tragedy unfolding over three decades.
unlike many other journalists who have reported on the war in afghanistan, murphy
tells the story mostly from the perspective of afghans. The project also underscores the
country’s bleak prospects in the face of a u.s. military withdrawal scheduled for 2014.
murphy, www.seamusmurphy.com, began documenting afghanistan in 1994. “it
was an extraordinary time to be there,” he says. The soviets had pulled out in defeat
five years earlier, leaving behind much destruction. That was followed by a civil war. “it
wasn’t being covered,” says murphy, who with writer anthony loyd finagled an assign-
ment from the Observer to do a story.