Behind the Scenes

Afghanistan: Shooting Under Fire

I was feeling a mixture of fear and excitement at leaving Pakistan in disguise and going secretly into another country, with no real means of communication. My possessions included a plastic cup, a Swiss Army knife, two camera bodies, four lenses, a bag of film and a few packets of airline peanuts. I was crossing an international border without a passport, going into a forbidden area and then into war. The army was lobbing mortar rounds that could land anywhere at anytime. There were times I wished I was somewhere else. But I figured as long as I’d gotten myself into the
situation, I wasn’t going to bail out or back down.

"Being a good photographer doesn’t necessarily mean you travel to distant places, but I needed to get out of my comfort zone and explore."

I was astonished to see so many villages destroyed with no inhabitants left to tell the tale… All the roads were blocked or under government control. We mainly traveled at night to avoid being spotted by the Soviet helicopters. We travelled as many as thirty miles at night, subsisting on tea and bread and an occasional bonus of goat’s cheese or yogurt. The only drinking water was what we scooped out of ditches. I was astonished at the flow of weapons and supplies going into Afghanistan from Pakistan around the clock. Rockets, mortar rounds, ammunition were all carried in by camels, donkeys and fighters. It was only later that we found out the staggering amount of money supplied by the United States to make it happen.

One night we were in the barracks asleep, and they made a bombing run. The bombs landed a few hundred feet away. There was a huge explosion that blew glass and window frames into the room – dust and smoke was everywhere. I thought we’d had it that night.