War photography tends to be a grim business, with the best pictures usually presenting the most tragic, horrific images. Therefore it was a pleasant surprise to discover Thomas Dworzak’s fantastic series of brightly colored, found photographs of Taliban fighters striking effeminate poses — some holding flowers and wearing enough black eyeliner to make a glam rocker proud. The boys and men had Afghan passport photographers make the portraits clandestinely in the late Taliban era, flouting strictures against figurative representation, then abandoned them when they fled the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. Dworzak found the photographs in a studio near his hotel in Kandahar.
The photo agency Magnum, which represents Dworzak, has created an excellent online photo essay on the pictures with enlightening video and audio commentary from both Dworzak and Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, who points out that despite the orders of their leaders, some among the Taliban still secretly cling to an ancient Afghan preoccupation with looking, well, a little dreamy. Ahmadinejad may be certain there are “no homosexuals” in Iran, but the situation looks a little different on the other side of the border.
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