We first met Sayed ismail and his son Sayed Mahboob in 2006 after we noticed a kamra-e-faoree standing outside of their photo-studio, near the Shrine of Hazrat Ali (the 'Blue Mosque') in Mazar-i-Sharif; in the past, it turned out, Sayed Mahboob had photographed with a kamra-e-faoree: when the Taliban were in power he took identity photographs of inmates at a prison in the city, but the camera outside their shop was now defunct and they used it only to advertise their other services.

Not knowing this, we went inside to investigate, and came out sometime later with a couple of hand-coloured portraits; they were taken with this large-format camera by Sayed Ismail (see the Misc. section for more on hand-coloured photography in Afghanistan).


On this visit, Sayed Mahboob helped us with our research by digging out an old encyclopedia from the time of Zahir Shah, who ruled Afghanistan from 1933 to 1973. The pages, he pointed out to us, explain the process of photography using the same type of large-format camera they took our portraits with five years previously. The book belongs to his family.

When we saw the book, we told Sayed Mahboob that he must be very interested in history.

"I'm not interested in history," he replied, "only in the time of Amanullah."

Amir Amanullah Khan was a reformist head of state who ruled Afghanistan from 1919 to 1929. During his reign he tried to spread western ideas and modern technologies in Afghanistan including a (very short) railway line, the printing press and photography (see Photography in Afghanistan section for more on Amanullah).

This is a picture of the right-hand side of the Zakri photo-studio: it's like a shrine. The three oldest photographs at the top right are of Amir Amanullah and his wife, Queen Soraya. The others are family photographs; and the cameras - if you're looking for symbolism - might represent the family business.




Sayed Mahboob then showed us a collection of photographs of Amir Amanullah and Queen Soraya that he said had been in his family a long time. This was the final one.