In the past photographic paper for the kamra-e-faoree often came from Europe and Japan and the chemicals from Pakistan or Russia. Once easily obtainable, these materials are now rare commodities in Afghanistan.


Most of the photographers we met did not refer to brands such as Ilford or Kodak when discussing the chemicals they used. They usually referred to developer as 'solution' and often mixed the individual ingredients of the developer themselves. Therefore, they were usually capable of listing them from memory. The individual ingredients of the developer were mixed with water. The fixer was often referred to as 'ipur'. The average temperature for both fixer and developer is around 20 degrees Celsius. If the chemicals are warmer they will work faster, and if colder, slower. As box camera photographers worked outside this could be a real challenge. Asad Ullah from Kabul told us that he would heat the chemicals on a stove before placing them inside the camera.

Hafiz Ullah from the Ramparkash Studio, Kabul used to hand out recipes like the one on the left to his clients. As smaller quantities could be purchased, these "home-made" mixtures allowed photographers with little capital to work.


The photographic developer is a chemical mixture that makes the image on the print visible. The longer a developer is allowed to work, the more the image will form, darken, and eventually turn black. In Afghanistan photographers sometimes used a commercial bromide developer solution from Rawalpindi, Pakistan called Universal (above left). Two packets of powders have to be dissolved in water. According to Sahel in Herat the best solution came from Russia.


The photographic fixer is a chemical that desensitizes the paper to light. Without the fixing process, the image will fog and even disappear completely from the paper. Izzat Ullah, in the video below, is using a fixer salt to stabilize his image. These salt rocks simply have to be dissolved in water. If kept dry they can last for decades.







In Afghanistan we found various types of paper. Brands like Ilford (UK), Fohar (Bulgaria), Lucky (China), Forte (Hun- gary), Agfa-Gevaert (Germany/ Belgium), Adox (Germany), Tura (Germany), Slavich (Russia) and Mimosa (Germany) had been used in the past. Not many of these brands still produce papers. Agfa and many others have stopped production more than a decade ago.

In Kabul photographers like Naser Ahmad aka. "Rona" used to import products by Agfa and Tura. Hafiz Ullah told us that a lady used to come all the way from Hungary to sell Forte paper in Kabul. Below, a sketch of a paper tray; the paper tray was used to hold the photo paper inside the box camera.




Ali Ahmad is changing the photographic paper inside his camera. In order to avoid light from entering the camera he covers it with a thick black cloth. Taking the sheets of paper out of their packaging and inserting them into the paper tray is not so easy a task as he has to do everything with one hand and of course without seeing anything.