He also interviewed Prince Ali Seraj, president of the National
Coalition for Dialogue with the Tribes of Afghanistan, and
several other Afghan policy advisers, as well as U.S. military
officials and Nancy Hatch Dupree, an American expert on
Afghanistan who has spent much of the last 50 years there.
MediaStorm producers used archival TV footage and
Murphy’s interviews to give an overview of Afghanistan’s
history since the 1960s. The interviews and Murphy’s photographs tell the story from 1994 on.
“With the interviews,” says Murphy, “It’s almost like the
history is being spoken. You can then choose the images
that will suit the mood, the texture and the statement that
the [interview subject] is making.”
“The spine of the story was going to be a walk through
history,” Storm says. “That was really obvious.”
Eric Maierson, who produced the story, explains that
he and associate producer Leandro Badalotti whittled 25
interviews down to their essence and then used spread-
sheets to organize the interviews and B-roll by subject to
form a logical narrative.
“It was a full-on effort for eight months,” Maierson says.
“When I first looked [at all the material], I was completely
overwhelmed. The effect of organizing is becoming very
close to material and knowing every nuance of it. I don’t
think you can start editing until you know what you have.”
The story is divided by subject into four chapters, and
includes an introduction and an epilogue. Woven into
the historical narrative is a story about an Afghan family
named Ba Deli. Their story reflects the changing fortunes
Casualties of war: A man hobbles past a cliff cavern
where a 1,500-year-old giant Buddah statue, destroyed
by the Taliban in 2001, once stood.
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of Afghanistan over 15 years on a more intimate level.
Murphy met the family by chance on his first trip. The
1994 photos show a widower and his four sons simply
enduring in the midst of civil war.
In the 1996 photos, only two sons remain (the others had been killed). The father had aged noticeably,
and the family’s fear is palpable. By the time Murphy
tracked them down again after the U.S. expelled the
Taliban, the father had died. Two sons remained. They
ended up working as tailors as Afghanistan’s fortunes
improved. One, Farhuddin Ba Deli, eventually got married and had two sons of his own. Murphy interviewed
him on video in 2010.
“You see the war through loss of family members.
Then they start to come back. It’s this beautiful cycle of
life that’s happening. Integrating that into the [multime-
dia] feature is super important,” Storm says. “Without
it, it’s just a history lesson, and [the family story] makes
[the project] more accessible to people who don’t live in
Afghanistan. That’s universal: We all love our kids.”
Although MediaStorm raised $10,000 for the proj-
ect through a Kickstarter campaign, “that didn’t even
scratch the surface of what it cost,” Storm says. He adds,
“We’re not going to make money on this project. That’s
not why we did it. We make money on other projects so
we can produce projects like this. Our mission is to get
stories out there that are too big, too gnarly or too ex-
pensive for most people to do. This story is going to mat-
ter for a long time.”
And Murphy isn’t quite finished with it. “I always think
there’s more to be done,” he says. Indeed, the final chapter
of the story—called “A Changed Mission”—underscores
the potential for Afghanistan to spiral out of control after
the U.S. pulls out its troops. Murphy was scheduled to re-
turn in January to photograph the Ba Deli family again for
a Stern magazine feature. The obvious question is what
kind of a country—and future—Farhuddin Ba Deli’s sons
will inherit with no sign of peace or stability in sight.