Throughout the muted neutral shades of Afghanistan, bluebirds float along the streets. They move through the crowds unnoticed despite their piercing pale blue color. Unnoticed but impossible to miss. They are the burqa clad ghosts of Kabul. It seems amazing that these women wear a garment meant to make them invisible in such a vibrant shade that so obviously contrasts the bland environment.
You see them on buses and in cars. They are dotted throughout the markets. You see them by the side of the road often begging with their chidren, faceless with hands outstretched for food or money. Its a stereotypical view of Afghanistan, the mantel of women’s oppression during the Taliban. Yet, despite the freedom to shed these garments now that the Taliban is not in power, some women throughout this country continue to wear them.
You are not allowed to photograph these women, or women in general, without permission. Yet how could a photograph resist the temptation that these bluebirds create with every passing? My photographer on this trip parallels these perriwinkle ghosts in an interesting dance I’ve witnessed throughout this trip. Already we have a growing stockpile of these images, taken without notice, the ghost capturing the ghosts.
Tony dresses in the neutrals of the city, and with his beard starting to fill in, his new black and white checked kaffir scarf, he is blending into the city the longer we are here, despite his large stature. He carries his camera unobtrusively behind his back, shooting those he is walking away from, or holds it at his hip while looking across the street. “Shooting from the hip”, you might say. In the car, its an ebb and flow of the camera coming out of his lap to shoot and returning to its resting place, unseen. The camera may point out the front window but really he’s aiming for the rear view mirror and capturing the bluebirds beside the car. Forbidden images captured without anyone being any the wiser.
I am taking in the city the same as him, yet not the same. Despite my headscarf and head to toe black, I tend to draw a crowd of on-lookers wherever we go, being blond and taller than many of the men here. I am noticed and that skews my view imperceptibly. Meanwhile, Tony seeps into the background and is able to capture images of the women, children, even the police that roam the streets hanging out of the backs of jeeps. He is the one carrying the massive camera and shoulder bag and no one bats an eye. Pow wows in the back of the car while we are driving show me faces I didn’t see, scenes I missed.
As the unseen ghosts float around Kabul, this week they are joined by one more, a slightly larger, hairier version blending into their midst.
photo by Di Zinno