Abdul Qadir, 52, is the major supplier of photographic goods in the Balkh province. Hovering around him in the family shop in Mazar-e-Sharif his teenage son Najim deals with customers and staff before he heads back to afternoon lessons in the local college. The family have a long photographic heritage in the region, and this Abdul Qadir breathlessly delivers to us in a single sweeping monologue.

"I will talk and you can ask questions later," he declares from behind the counter; and without stumbling over a memory, he rolls off his family's one-hundred and sixty year history in the city.


Abdul Qadir Peshawri, his great grandfather, who was a doctor and an architect, established the family in Mazar-e-Sharif in the mid-19th century. He came, as his name denotes, from Peshawar in modern-day Pakistan. Why he travelled to Mazar-e-Sharif: whether he liked the city, the girls, the weather or if it was just fate, nobody knew; but he did have an interest in photography which he pursued in his new home, taking pictures of the local architecture including the Qala-e-Jangi, a fortress near Mazar-e-Sharif, and Bagh-e-Huzoor, a park in the city.

Abdul Qadir learnt this particular information from a local history writer, he says; unfortunately his grandfather and father died young and didn't manage to tell him the stories themselves.

Here on the right is a picture of Abdul Qadir's father, Abdul Rasul Quraishi.



Over fifty years ago Abdul Rasul Quraishi opened up a photo shop in Mazar-e-Sharif with an Indian Afghan called Manikchand. Although Abdul Rasul had a keen interest in photography at the time, he didn't know enough to run a studio, so it was Manikchand who taught a staff of locals the ropes, until finally Abdul Rasul with the aid of the newly trained staff could go it alone.

Or as Abdul Qadir puts it: "From that date... we had the art!"

Here's a collage done in Abdul Qadir's shop. The portrait is a large format hand-coloured print, cut out and pasted onto a digital print of a landscape painting.

Over the years Abdul Qadir's family have managed to pass on their craft to many students in the city and beyond, helping to establish (and supply) Balkh Photography, Baharstan Photography, Mahmood Photography and Jahan Noma Photography amongst others.

Abdul Qadir remembers that Sardar from Jahan Noma used to have a kamra-e-faoree camera in Tashqurghan until his father convinced him to start using modern technology - and one day they drove out there in the family's Russian jeep laden with supplies to start up Sardar's shop. To this day Sardar's nephew and sons are working in the shop.

By helping people like this, his family have built up trust, Abdul Qadir says; and photography is all about trust.