One adventure was to the outskirts of town with some friends to scale up the great 5th-century BCE wall of the Bala Hissar fortress on the outskirts of Kabul. It was the realm of warriors and a place of combat, made to intimidate all who approached. As massive as it was, we heroically made it halfway up where I photographed a young man perched on a cliff, surveying the great land below. It’s “The Boy on The Mountain.” On the way down, I saw a wonderful man at the side of the path, resting against a tree with his birds. He smiled sweetly for my photograph, “Lovely Bird Man.”
The next outing was a jaunt into the countryside to see a kite fight, called a jang, a beloved tradition for centuries in Afghanistan and all across Central Asia. To get there, we drove 95 miles east to Jalālābād, over the dangerous Mauryan Route, one of the integral routes along the ancient Silk Road. We stopped at a field on the edge of town where the jang was held. This was the amazing moment when I met three beautiful young girls, who had caught sight of me standing on top of the car where I hoped to get a better shot of the jang. They were very curious, and shyly inched closer to be able to see me. What extraordinary and sweet girls they were. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I learned that it was not henna on their hands as I thought, but stains from their job, dying cloth. Now, their photograph is titled “Dyer Girls.” The beauty in their faces, so full of innocence and wonder, still brings heart-expanding joy to all who see them. For me, it is one of my most iconic and joyful images representing the joy of the Afghan people. As I look at their faces today, my heart goes out to them in hopes that they survived…. War destroys innocence.