A painful history

 Shah Marai started working with AFP as a driver and translator in 1996 and officially became a photographer in 2001 when the Taliban were ousted from power. He was later made head of the Kabul bureau. He died in 2018 in a double suicide bombing that claimed the lives of 25 people. He arrived on the scene after the first explosion alongside other journalists and was targeted by a second suicide bomber. In a country upended by insecurity and the American occupation, his images, full of empathy for his people, are displayed here alongside the work of Wakil Kohsar.

Kohsar joined AFP nine years ago after working with various Afghan media outlets, taking over from his colleague Shah Marai. As head of the Kabul bureau, he most notably covered the fall of the city last August in images that have been seen around the world. Some of them show the airport and planes with desperate figures clinging to them, while others reveal the tension and panic of American soldiers.

As the only foreign agency with offices still open in Kabul, AFP pursues its work in increasingly dangerous circumstances in order to keep the world informed about a country that has slipped back into religious obscurantism.


Agence France-Presse is a vital link in the international news chain and a beacon of quality journalism. For the 3rd year running, our Festival is joining forces with AFP to present the work of press photographers posted in the regions that are under the spotlight at La Gacilly this year. After South America and the Nordic countries, this year we are showing the work of two Afghan photojournalists.

Exhibition produced in collaboration with Agence France-Presse.

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Under the veil

The Taliban entered Kabul on 15th August last year, after being ousted from power almost exactly 20 years earlier. The extremist organisation is again wielding an iron fist in Afghanistan, reinstating Islamic law throughout society. The first to suffer are women, who are again forced hide behind their burkhas with their fundamental freedoms violated.

Forced to flee her country, talented artist Fatimah Hossaini, 28, found refuge in France, bringing only her most precious photographs with her. All these images pay vibrant tribute to the unique beauty of Afghan women. These women have few opportunities to express themselves freely and face hurdles posed by the heavy cultural heritage they must bear every day. Their challenges are far more daunting than those faced by other women around the world.

The women photographed and celebrated by Fatimah Hossaini are beautiful and brave, showing dignity in the most trying of circumstances. This exhibition shows the many faces of this beauty, with women from Afghanistan’s different ethnic groups – Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Qizilbash and Uzbek – dressed in their traditional costumes. Their features, gaze and pose convey femininity and hope. Here, beauty and peace come together, and peace is always beautiful.

At a time when, in the words of the writer Yasmina Khadra, “men have gone mad; they have turned their backs on the day in order to face the night”, let us not forget the fate of these women.


Travel in an Enlightened Kingdom

Mohammed Zahir Shah was the last king of Afghanistan, reigning from 1933 to 1973. In 1959, he encouraged the schooling and emancipation of women and went on to ensure that a constitution inspired by that of the French Fifth Republic was adopted in 1964. During his reign, the country sought to open up to the outside world.

French photographer Paul Almásy, who died in 2003, had the opportunity to visit this nation that longed to leave its feudal system behind. Almásy was born in Budapest in 1906 to a Jewish father and an aristocratic mother. He visited every country in the world, except Mongolia. His career began in the 1930s and he covered the early days of the Second World War in Germany. Unlike most photojournalists of the time, Almásy was aware that the world was about more than just conflicts and violence, and that it was equally important to shine a light on social difficulties. In 1965, he published a detailed report about the lack of water on the planet long before such issues became central to the 21st century.

In the 1950s and 1960s, he spent a lot of time in Afghanistan, bringing back images that seem unreal to us now that the Taliban have retaken control of the country and proclaimed an Islamic emirate. He thus offers us a historical, documentary-like look at Afghanistan. It is a nostalgic view, without a doubt, but one that helps us better understand the country’s past and – let’s hope – presages its future, free from the clutches of obscurantism.


Exhibition produced in collaboration with the akg-images agency.

Sandy landscapes

Sistan & Baluchistan Province is Iran’s largest province, located in the south-east of the country. Bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan, it was once considered the country’s breadbasket. In historical texts, it is described as a verdant region with an abundance of water and rich, fertile soil that has nurtured a civilisation dating back 5,000 years. Today, it is one of the driest areas in the country as a result of unparallelled changes in weather patterns. 30% of the population has left Sistan & Baluchistan Province to escape the unemployment and despair caused by water shortages.

Drought is a huge ecological, economic and social problem for Iran. And it has long been a focus of Hashem Shakeri’s work. Shakeri is a 34-year-old Iranian press photographer living in Germany, whose career has already been crowned with prestigious awards such as the Ian Parry Scholarship, the Lucas Dolega Award, the UNICEF Photo of the Year Award and the Getty Images Scholarship. His images depicting the effects of the pandemic and lockdown in Iran have received worldwide acclaim and were published in the prestigious The New Yorker.

His pictures on drought stand out for their distinctive colours, meticulous composition and sharp framing, depicting scenes and landscapes that appear almost lunar. Another series on show features his work on the new satellite cities emerging from the desert to house Iranians forced to leave Tehran because of the soaring price of land and increasingly difficult living conditions.


Exhibition produced in collaboration with the Silk Road Gallery, Tehran.

Persian identities

By her own admission, Maryam Firuzi did not plan on becoming a photographer. This talented Iranian filmmaker, who has a degree in Persian calligraphy and film studies, discovered the syntax of the still image during projects for her studies and her work on a thesis about cinematic introspection.

“In my opinion, all artistic mediums are intertwined,” she said in an interview with Paris Photo, when her work was being exhibited by the Silk Road Gallery in Tehran. “My photography is influenced by all of these art forms in different ways: calligraphy taught me discipline and self-dedication, painting taught me freedom of expression, and literature taught me how to develop ideas and articulate them.”

Her fundamentally innovative vision is clearly expressed in her photographic series as she explores her world, namely present-day Iran. A world in which the place of women is inevitably complex. She reflects on the notion of heritage, wearing veils and hair... She explains: “In my country, where gender is always a deeply sensitive issue in every aspect of society, is it even possible to circumvent my status as a woman in my work? Gender is so omnipresent in my life that I often feel forced to think like a woman and create bodies of work that are only related to women.”

Four series of Maryam Firuzi’s work are on show at La Gacilly, one of which is presented exclusively for the Festival.

Her perspective deeply challenges all our notions of photography.


Exhibition produced in collaboration with the Silk Road Gallery, Tehran.

The Land of the Pure

On 27 December 2007, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Stuck in traffic in her taxi on the way to a rally organised by this opponent of Pervez Musharraf, Sarah Caron found herself at the heart of one of the most tumultuous periods of the Islamic republic’s history. A month earlier, she had landed a commission for Time magazine with a scoop: an interview and photo shoot with Bhutto, who was then under house arrest.

If you think that it all sounds like something out of a novel, you’d be right. In fact, she has turned it into a graphic novel. However, the story of this leading French press photographer began long before the events of 2007. Her first images taken in India depicted the exile of widows in the north of the country and earned her an exhibition at Visa pour l’Image in 1999. It was then that Caron, who was destined to become a ballet dancer, fully embraced photography and journalism. With an approach that is always sophisticated and never sensational, she is quick to cover the most interesting subjects – the ones we don’t talk about enough.

Her lens goes wherever her journalistic instinct guides her, but she does most of her work in Pakistan, where she has lived for the past 15 years. She shares variations on a country of which we are often shown only the worst aspects, a country that she has crossed from west to east and north to south, from the teeming metropolis of Karachi to the foothills of the Hindu Kush. This is a retrospective of her work, bringing us closer to the women and men who populate this singular nation.


Shards of peace

 Véronique de Viguerie’s career began at the turn of the 21st century after she first set foot in Afghanistan in 1999. She was 21 years old and immediately captivated by the country. “I was amazed by everything I saw. It was like travelling back in time; the men wearing turbans, the women in burkhas...” Intending to stay for a few months, she ended up based in Kabul for three years.

Having visited Colombia, Iraq and Somalia, Véronique quickly met with success, drawing the interest of some of the most highly regarded French and international publications. An outstanding photojournalist, she won a series of awards, including the Bayeux Award for war correspondents, a World Press Photo Award and several Visa d’or Awards.

She has been covering events in Afghanistan since the early 2000s. Her work naturally deals with the complexities of a country scarred by two decades of internal war and military occupation. However, she has also endeavoured to show the day-to-day life of the people who live there. For example, alongside her exclusive coverage of the Taliban, she has documented the Hazaras skiing in the Bamiyan Valley, captured the tenderness of a farming couple and recorded the hope and laughter of young Afghans.

These shards of peace are on show this year at La Gacilly: slivers of intimacy, snippets of tranquillity and interludes of calm, far from the tumult of war and the scurry of current events.


Exhibition produced with the support and guidance of the Initial Labo photo laboratory.

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Deceptive daydreams

One glance at the photos that won Ebrahim Noroozi several World Press Photo Awards is enough to immediately understand the astounding versatility of this Iranian photographer. He is an established journalist and a staunch defender of the environment, but also a visual artist with an innovative approach. He enjoys an impressive international reputation: his work journeys from his native Iran to India and Afghanistan, and graces the pages of the world’s most prestigious magazines such as Time, The New York Times and The Washington Post. In one series, he documents the terrifying story of a mother and daughter who were both subject to an acid attack by their husband and father. In another, he takes a no-holds-barred look at his home country, condemning the use of hanging as a death penalty.

However, this photographic chameleon also embraces a more enigmatic stance, venturing into abstraction with artistic work that features nature, the elements and a masterful use of colour. Two series by Ebrahim Noroozi are on show at La Gacilly, demonstrating a photographic style that could be described as a reverie on the ravages of global warming. The first takes us to Lake Urmia, one of the largest salt lakes in the world, which is in danger of disappearing in the near future. In the meantime, as summer arrives, its waters take on a purple hue due to blooming algae and bacteria. The second series looks at the relationship between people and water resources in his country: one third of Iran is covered by desert and droughts are becoming increasingly frequent, leading to major water shortages.


Exhibition produced in collaboration with the Silk Road Gallery, Tehran.

Fragments of memories

Gohar Dashti was born in Iran not far from the Iraqi border in the year in which war broke out between the two countries, tearing the lives of thousands of families apart until 1988. Dashti’s family was among them. “This conflict had a strong symbolic influence on the emotional existence of my generation,” explains the photographer and filmmaker. In her Today’s Life and War series, she captures moments that reference a duality of life going on despite the ravages of war. “In a fictionalised battlefield, I show a couple in a series of everyday activities. The man and woman embody the power of perseverance, determination and survival.”

This photographic series, which dates back to 2008, won Gohar Dashti international acclaim and has been exhibited by various museums in Europe and the United States. Since this timeless work, which retains its evocative power 15 years on, her approach has evolved along with her style, which is both aesthetic and documentary, her eye constantly seeking new perspectives. This is evident in the other works on show at La Gacilly, testifying to our relationship with our environment. She explains: “People are ephemeral but nature is constant: it will be there long after we are gone.”

Her subtle, intelligent work uses geography as a narrative device to tell the story of the relationship between people and the world in which they live. We are exclusively exhibiting Near and Far, her latest work completed in 2022 which presents a photographic kaleidoscope inspired by architecture, landscapes and Islamic arts.


Light and shadow

In 2018, photography lost one of its greatest figures. Abbas Attar, who preferred to be called by his first name only, was a man of few words but of 1001 images. Renowned for his in-depth coverage of the 1979 Iranian revolution, his eye refused to be confined to a single region of the world. Fascinated by Mexico and myriad other countries, he led a captivating and far-reaching photographic investigation for over 30 years (and until his death) into the major religions and the complex relationships that men have with their gods. Before joining Magnum in 1981, Abbas worked for Sipa and Gamma. In each of these agencies, he left his mark on his colleagues, who still see him as one of the greatest photographic talents of recent decades. More than just a lensman, Abbas was a master of light who perfectly combined journalistic rigour, visual excellence and deep-rooted, human moral integrity.

There hasn’t been an exhibition of his work since his passing. The La Gacilly Photo Festival is thus honoured to present, in collaboration with his family, a major retrospective of his work. His journalistic output will stand alongside lesser-known, more contemplative shots taken by Abbas of people and their environment. This exhibition of black and white photography presents incessant collisions between reality and myth, derision and fanaticism, chaos and beauty, gentleness and sadness, and shadow and light.


Exhibition produced in collaboration with Magnum Photos

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