Kabul Street Portraits by Phillip Walter Wellman
At the beginning of 2021, I started to photograph people in the streets of Kabul. Foreign forces were to leave Afghanistan later in the year, and the portraits focused on those who would remain – predominantly, Afghans who sold goods or services in the streets and earned little. Everyone I photographed had different expectations for the future. No one expected to be living under the Taliban’s strict Islamic rule by the year’s end. However, on 15 August 2021, the Taliban seized Afghanistan's capital, and it instantly transformed the portraits into images of a bygone era – one meant to provide hope for Afghans, but which ultimately failed many of them. By September, nearly the entire country risked sinking into poverty, according to the UN, which warned of a “rapid, catastrophic deterioration in the lives of Afghanistan’s most vulnerable” including many of those who made a living in the streets.