Travel retrospective 1 – A symbol of freedom

Afghan boy with kite

Afghan kite

I was going through my library recently and decided it would be interesting to do a retrospective of some of my favourite photographs. Inspired by Don McCullin’s book, simply titled “Don McCullin”, I decided that all the photographs for the retrospective would be converted to monochrome. To keep a sense of scale and focus, I decided to limit the retrospective to my travel photographs.

Here, then, is my first offering in my Travel retrospective series.

I visited Afghanistan in December 2003 with colleagues from BMS World Mission as we did some filming there. NATO had taken over security earlier that year after Taliban control of the country effectively ended in 2001 under US retaliation for the twin towers attack. At that time it was a very beleaguered country. There was a lot of war damage visible in Kabul. Many buildings were bombed-out shells and walls were riddled with bullet holes. There were no street lights.

Flying kites has been popular in Afghanistan for a long time and ranges from being a common hobby to sport and even an art form. The Taliban outlawed kite flying during their time in control and it only resumed after the collapse of their regime.

This photograph was taken in a mountain village where we were filming and was one of those opportune, unplanned moments. I spotted this young boy flying his kite and it struck me as a symbol of new found freedom. The interesting thing is that this was about freedom to return to a traditional pastime. In many ways it symbolises for me the way in which repressive regimes are not merely anti-western, though there are those that present that face. Rather those regimes are about controlling the population for their own ends rather than the for the good of the people and here was an expression of freedom to resume a national tradition.

Being high in the mountains and having the perspective of looking up at this young kite flyer, I had a real sense of the freedom of flight. He’ll be eleven years older but I hope this young man, as he will be now, is still flying kites.

The photograph was taken on Fuji 800 Pro film stock. Unfortunately I don’t have a record of the exposure details but in processing, as well as having negs and prints, the photos were all converted to digital format as JPEG images.  The original image was in colour and the reprocessing to monochrome was done exclusively in Lightroom 5, with minor adjustments to tone and contrast. I also cropped the original to improve the overall composition.


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