Friday, October 12, 2007

The Taliban channel Gilbert and George

This is just intriguingly weird... from Slate:

The Taliban's Secret Photos
A Magnum photo essay. During his coverage of the fall of Afghanistan's Taliban regime in 2002, photographer Thomas Dworzak discovered a stash of pictures showing male Taliban members in curious, effeminate poses.
(video here if the embed below doesn't work)

and from the book blurb for Taliban: "Kandahar, a city of Pashtuns noted for their gaiety, so to speak, where Mullah Omar had made his final headquarters, has traditions of men in high-heeled sandals, with make-up of kohl and painted nails like sultry silent-movie stars. They liked to have their pictures taken and, because the Taliban most certainly needed passports, their vanities were accomodated in the hole-in-the-wall photo shops that exist in downtown Kandahar. Magnum photographer Thomas Dworzak, on war assignment for the New Yorker, discovered their photographs days after they had fled the city. They hung among portraits of Bruce Lee, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Ahmed Shah Massoud, their faces retouched by the artful brushwork of the photographer. As exotic backdrops the subjects have chosen chalets in the Swiss Alps, where the mountains are green and Julie Andrews sings, rather than the forbidding grey and brown of their own country. Some are alone, others with a friend or a Kalashnikov, with garish colours stroked into the theme, along with flowers. They were the killers who have fled, leaving behind an absurd record of their presence."


Joerg said...

Here's the thing, though: How come we feel good about making fun of this, and at the same time we don't treat those ridiculously Photoshoped magazine covers that are so ubiquitous in our world the same way? What is the difference? Don't say it's the religion, because that answer is not an answer, it's merely avoiding to deal with what I'm after.

tim atherton said...

because there's no real hypocrisy involved in those magazine overs (which we do actually make fun of).

They are what they are and they openly represent the absurdity of our society.

This pictures comes out of the a violent regime who ostensibly opposed these things in the most repressive ways possible and are absurd indicators of the hypocrisy of who and what they were.

Joerg said...

See, I don't think that's a good enough answer for me. I think we're not doing ourselves a favour by laughing about those Taliban photos (remember there were times in our Western culture when photographers were asked to produce very similar photos - and how different are those overly Photoshopped images from today anyway?) and by pretending we're just so vastly different or there's "no real hypocrisy" in our images.

tim atherton said...

"there's "no real hypocrisy" in our images." in the magazine images you talk about because they are so blatantly up front about what they are - a faux lifestyle that has little connection to reality.

You seem to be stuck purely on the "style" of the Taliban images and not their context - which is everything

These came out of a regime where any imagery was banned on pain of violent consequences. And aparently many are pictures of and for those who did the enforcing.

So just the simple fact that they had these pictures made in and of themselves raises the level of hypocrsy to pretty high levels. Combined with their choice of camp poses and flamboyant colouring, the pictures are the diametric opposite of what these people apparently stood for and so brutally inflicted on others.

So to my mind they are a pretty fair target for ridcule - among other things

Unknown said...

Who's making fun of this? I think they are fairly powerful if you look at them from a cultural perspective. Such gaity hidden within the grim and sadistic taliban regime. Fascinating. I didn't laugh once when I saw this on the magnum website; and it in fact informed me that there is and was considerably more diversity within this afghani culture than what is represented by our american media.