Ibulliance: Through a New Lens

A picture tells a thousand words, so they say, and for our artisan partners in Kandahar, the opportunity to learn a storytelling craft is new and exciting. For the past two years, the Ibu Movement has facilitated a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Department of State focused on elevating Afghan women and preserving heritage craft. As a part of this grant, Kandahar Treasure hosted a Photography and Visual Storytelling training session in January led by Jane Bernard—a talented photojournalist who spent time in Afghanistan in the 1980s. In the first of three sessions, Jane emphasized the importance of high-quality images to promote the women’s artwork, tell a story, and connect with an audience.

Ten women, ages 16 - 47, gathered at the KT headquarters for the Zoom session. Some had never before taken a photograph, and Jane focused on the basics like how to hold a camera or phone for stability, as well as more advanced skills like choosing a background that complements the subject, and utilizing "open shade" and light reflectors. KT recently purchased smartphones and a set of light reflectors using grant funds, and the women practiced taking photos using the tips and principles discussed. Each participant was tasked with homework to create at least three photographs and upload them to a WhatsApp group message, where Jane was able to provide feedback.

This is an exciting opportunity for a woman to become a story-teller using the camera as her personal lens, especially given the lack of literacy which challenges many women in that area. The idea of being a subject, looking out and framing the world, rather than being an object, constantly legislated and controlled, is revolutionary. To design a narrative in images promises more than enhancing product marketing (though that, too, is important for their work). Jane shared with the artisans how she learned to master her craft by allowing herself to make mistakes and take bad photographs. She encouraged the artisans to be imperfect in their training, which challenges their cultural ideology of "do it perfectly or do not try at all."

Although seas and time zones apart, Jane and the women of Kandahar Treasure are able to connect on a familiar level, and with their shared creativity transcend boundaries. Not only will these participants be able to showcase their products and share their story as artisans, but they will also be equipped to capture the world around them in a new light–through their own lens. In a country with advisories warning travelers not to visit, these women will be our eyes into the soul, art, and culture of Afghanistan.

With Gratitude,

Abbie Kline