For the past few weeks I have been posting photos from Yemen in 1998. I have received several comments that photos from 15 years ago are not very old. So for those who prefer much older photos this one takes you back more than 41 years, to late August 1972.
This is from one of the main streets of Herat, the major city of western Afghanistan, close to the border with Iran.
Entering Afghanistan was like taking a giant step back in time, into an undefined past. Some places looked like the 19th century, other things made me think of the 1930's, but in my hotel in Herat records by artists like The Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel were played in the restaurant.
Herat overwhelmed me with its almost total lack of cars. Instead of the smell of exhaust fumes there was the fragrance of resin from the trees lining the streets or fresh bread in the many bakeries. Instead of the noise of engines I could hear the gentle sounds of bells from the horse-carts or birds singing in cages hanging outside shops.
I should not romanticize the Afghanistan I met so many years ago, but the impressions it made on me, a young man from northern Europe being very far away from home for the first time, have stayed with me ever since and will remain in my memories for the rest of my life. Afghanistan was not an entirely safe country even then, but I got out of it relatively unhurt and returned the following year. In the 2000's I have gone back a couple of times and met a depressingly different country.
In August 1972 I hadn't even started using Kodachrome films, so this was scanned from an Agfacolor slide. You can see a larger version here.
Critiques | Translate
emka (100907) 2014-02-15 4:41
hello Gert, I am so envious. You could visit so many the distant countries when it was quite impossible for me to go anywhere and you have the photos that still have excellent quality. This photo is as old as some of our friends here, maybe even older, this time I can't complain :). In that time I began to make slides, it was a big new things, to have colour on photos. Between the time I gave the film for procession (only one such point was in Warsaw) I had to wait sometimes two months..
I can imagine how excited you were here. Amazing view. And Afghanistan still seems impossible to visit.
Interesting these shoes on the right side, they look quite modern.
Warm regrads MAlgo
Sergiom (82891) 2014-02-15 5:10
Je pense que les choses n'ont pas vraiment changé à cet endroit depuis la prise de cette photo en argentique.Le scan est très bon et la photo ne perd aucun détail. Les couleurs sont encore vives.
Subhogen (4067) 2014-02-15 5:20
This photo was taken 10 years before my birth!! Great to hear from you how beautiful Afghanistan was back then. Like the view of men in their traditional attire, they look exactly as the Afghan traders I see in Calcutta. Really like such treasures from your archive, they are invaluable. And so is your experience over all these years trotting around the globe. What about writing a book, if you have not already written one.
Thanks for sharing. A great contribution to TE.
serp2000 (44720) 2014-02-15 5:55
We have got the 25th celebrating of the end of the Soviet war in Afghanistan today. I have get the radio and TV translations with the participants and the witness of that events. I think, you don't know about this date, but it is actual post today. Good contribution to the theme.
SnapRJW (31629) 2014-02-15 6:17
Hello Gert - Your narrative is a wonderful adjunct to your photograph as it allows me to experience the smells and sounds of the scene as well as the visuals. You obviously connected with the location and it holds a special place in all your travel memories. Here I notice that the men all look quite 'closed off' no-one seems to pay any attention to you; all eyes are averted.
WRT Subho's suggestion about a book, I think he has a great idea. How about it?
Warm regards Rosemary
Nicou (145224) 2014-02-15 6:50
encore une sueprbe scène de rue quelle iamge de ce homme avec leurs turbans sur la tête ceux qui discutent un qui portent sur la tête quelle vue sueprbe.
Bravo et amitié
willperrett (11270) 2014-02-15 7:08
Good archive documentary photograph. An ordinary street scene, but given added weight by its vintage. A valid and interesting historical document. TFS
Romano46 (18472) 2014-02-15 7:23
l'Afganistan quale era e come spesso ancora appare nei centri minori.
Allora era la meta dei giovani e dei viaggiatori avventurosi: io stesso progettai un viaggio attraverso il suo territorio che però non si realizzo.
Herat, la porta verso l'occidente e verso l'Iran oggi purtroppo al centro di un territorio molto turbolento.
Gli anni passano ma certe situazioni si modificano nella politica ma non nei costumi.
Ciao e buon fine settimana
Fis2 (100734) 2014-02-15 7:41
Next interesting scene from daily life.
I like your photo from archive.
Good frame and characteristic colors.
Have a nice evening
saxo042 (37902) 2014-02-15 7:57
En annan tid, en annan värld! En mycket fin dokumentation från ett land som uppenbarligen inte finns längre. Jag minns alla dessa hemskickade filmer, vi kunde se bilderna innan du själv sett dem.
worldcitizen (8860) 2014-02-15 9:03
It's interesting to read your impressions of Afghanistan. I like the simplicity of this daily life view. There seems to be a calm atmosphere at that moment, something this country has sadly not experienced for so long. I like the men chatting in the corner, and the plastic slippers hanging in the shop. There's a lot of activity to look at and enjoy.
Kamilutka (8107) 2014-02-15 9:38
your photo and the note which accompanies it is a pleasure. For many years I have been reading up on Afghanistan subject and I really would like to see the place which it used to be long time ago.
What a shame about this country and what happened to it. I do not think it will ever recover from the damage, so I am quite jealous that you were able to witness it in its better time.
I love the picture too with the pedestrians on the busy street. Their old fashioned clothes add to the whole scenery. Very good DOF with slightly blurred background and nice framing.
Thanks for sharing and have a lovely evening
carlo62 (50872) 2014-02-15 10:04
la foto è bella, viva, con tante persone immerse nei loro affari, ma c'è una cosa che mi colpisce particolarmente, le scarpe colorate nell'angolo in alto a destra, siamo nel 1972 e già avevano un vasto assortimento di queste scarpe in plastica.....incredibile.
macjake (69815) 2014-02-15 11:30
I have so many questions and comments to make here!
First of all...what is it truly truly like to visit a country such as Afghanistan? part of me think the American government has us all brainwashed into thinking its some terribly dangerous place to be, filled with terrists and car bombs going off all the time...
There must be some middle ground..no? yes?
I'm sure its not as bad as the US media and government makes it out to be...you'd think THOSE people and areas are just specific pockets, not the whole country...if you know what i mean.
its a place that i'd actually be very interested in seeing, especially the countrysides and smaller towns outside the larger cities.
for sure it's one of those countries where there are FAR more questions than answers...at least for me anyways...you've been there :)
another fine time-piece photo from almost 40 years ago!
imageme (1790) 2014-02-15 12:20
HI Gert, This is a very old picture telling story of Afghanistan back then. Life looked rather simple and boring I guess at that time in Afghanistan., and they had more human contacts (social life) rather than depending on technology of like nowadays. I consider we are like robots living in recent world time. But there are cons and pros too. Nice perspective and light. Well recorded moment. Thank for sharing
tyro (25936) 2014-02-15 14:18
Your combination of a fine candid photograph and an utterly fascinating and very informative note make this one of the very best uploads I have ever seen on TE. And perfectly in keeping with TE's pronounced mission of "Learning about the World through photography"!
It is fascinating to read of your experiences and also your feelings about Afghanistan in the early 1970s and it's also depressing to learn how much the place had deteriorated during a further thirty years.
I couldn't help but read Rosemary's comments and she is indeed right - at least one or two of these men surely would have noticed the presence of a European stranger with a camera - and yet no-one has made eye contact with you. In fact, it looks as though the gentleman in the middle is purposely averting his eyes.
As always, your scanned photographs are a pleasure to look at but in this case it's your note which excels!
lousat (93684) 2014-02-15 15:15
Hi Gert,another great piece of history from your archive,this time from this unlucky country always looking a peacefull future,the pic is truly beautiful,i like the perspective and the good quality,an example from a world maybe still like in your pic today too.Have a nice Sunday and thanks,Luciano
adidas5nb (5743) 2014-02-15 18:57
excellent note to go with your classic snap.just love the way describe and contextualize the pics.great to see a pic from a country that even now is somewhat of a mystery.really fascinating.thanks for sharing.
rychem (38193) 2014-02-15 22:16
A historical photo of a street in Afghanistan, I have not seen recent photos from Afghanistans cities, a comparison could be very interesting, great photo
PaulVDV (29845) 2014-02-15 23:18
Even then, the main street of Herat was clearly a man's world.
The white turbans are apparently not tied completely around the head but a long part has to hang loose.
I think I can recognize the impressions that this country has left on you. Here in Belgium I know a not so young couple who has travelled to many distant countries in their lives and they've visited Afghanistan in the early seventies. They say that no other country has left such an everlasting impression on them.
In a perhaps slightly lesser extent, I personally have a bit of that feeling with Yemen. On the other hand, I think that the order in which you visit foreign cultures makes you to consider things differently.
I'm surprised that you were able to visit Afghanistan in the 2000's. I guess that this must have been before september 2001. I'm also very surprised that a Swiss man has recently uploaded two pictures of Afghanistan (of Mazar-e-Sharif) of his visit in summer 2013. Take a look at what he wrote in his note.
Best regards, Paul
pajaran (62548) 2014-02-16 3:39
Lepa fotografija i secanje na 1972.
Dobar rad skeniranjem, lepo pokazano mesto i trenutak.
Ostaju fotografije i secanja.
Lepo popodne i sve najbolje.
Beautiful photos and memories on in 1972.
Good work by scanning, demonstrated good place and time.
Photographs and memories remain.
Nice afternoon and all the best.
photographer_sg (4414) 2014-02-16 3:49
Invaluable and fascinating picture of Afghanistan of the 70s. Really liked reading your note and the vibrant colours and framing of the photograph. Thanks for sharing. Have a great week ahead
papagolf21 (103834) 2014-02-16 4:05
Une très bonne image d'archives ! Une composition très réussie à tous points de vue.
Félicitations pour cette présentation.
williewhistler (16398) 2014-02-16 4:40
this interesting shot from your archives is a fine representation of street life in Herat more than 40 years ago and the reaction to it has been exceptional,it is indeed worthy of all the praise.
I can`t help thinking that even then it must have taken quite a nerve to attempt open street photography.
I would echo John`s words it`s indeed a most entertaining photograph with a fascinating note.
Best regards Les.
jhm (155330) 2014-02-16 4:45
We are forty one year later, maybe is the time hundred year back in the time, through certain groups of people that the clock want turn hundred year back
A nice daily life picture with an excellent sharpness and clarity, notwithstanding a scanned picture.
Excellent composition, good presentation.
Very well done, TFS.
Have a nice Sunday,
kasianowak (9407) 2014-02-16 5:53
Great insight into the daily life in Afganistan 42 years ago. As usual, makes me wonder what this street would look like now - the same, similar or completely different?
As far as I'm concerned - old or new photos, I'm interested to see them all. :)
ourania (47844) 2014-02-16 7:23
I like very much the local colour, the naturalness and the sense of movement enclosed in this tight frame. There's great sense of depth and the flow of daily life along the street has been captured superbly. The chromatic harmony makes us feel that life in this place is harmonious and calm too. The attitudes of the people are so interesting and all the details become significant for the viewer who knows that they are watching an ordinary scene with historical value. Congratulations and thank you!
All the best, have a lovely evening,
mesutilgim (95834) 2014-02-16 8:24
Hello dear Gert,
Really you are today 10 years older than me !
This scenery in Herat taken 40 years ago didn't change much mosy probably.
Not only the capture itself but also many intetersting notes makes your entry a perfect TE job.
Do you have any plans in the next future for İstanbul ?
TFS and best regards
abmdsudi (55658) 2014-02-16 8:39
Who could live without music?
An interesting picture and story, it's very good to have your text and put the photo in context. It's satisfying when a piece of photojournalism also works as a pictorial image giving us the opportunity to see what's happening in Afghanistan then. This is why i love this site to see images you wouldn't otherwise see. I think the expression on the men's faces are so strong that it overrides the noise! Excellent timing as well as good composition and spot on clarity, credit to good archiving and quality scan work. Excellent shot, both as an image in general and as a photo journalistic picture. Congrats, tfs
jcpix (13930) 2014-02-16 17:17
These old photos have been truly fascinating, and for an American like me to get a look and better understanding of a country and its inhabitants is a delight, especially considering the world we live in today. Many of my friends think I'm crazy, but I would love to travel through such ancient lands and understand the culture. Not likely to happen in my lifetime though!?
This picture has held up well over the years, from 1972...amazing! When I look back on older pictures I always wonder "Where are they now?" This has a strong sensation of being right on the street, walking along side these men. Another nice depiction of the every day life aspect, just walking the street, but feeling the atmosphere. Thanks for sharing these glimpses into far reaching corners. enjoy the week ahead.
Apurba20 (984) 2014-02-16 23:28
Impressive image, Gert.
Yes, you did romanticize the era, and you had every right to. In India, we too get emotional reading 'Kabuliwallah' the fascinating story of the dry fruit seller from Kabul, written by Rabindranath Tagore.
subhendu_bagchi (26089) 2014-02-17 2:16
another very old catch, another very good composition from daily life. I like the use of selective depth of field. Good colour tone and nice sharpness. I admire your scan work. Overall a nice image which is really enjoyable. Tfs.
Royaldevon (40336) 2014-02-17 12:26
I am amazed at the extent of you travels, particularly in the middle east. I was amazed at Pakistan in in the 1990's I can only imagine what Afghanistan did for you in 1970's!
I love your description the resin infused streets, it carries so much meaning! Oh, if only countries could remain unspoilt, particularly by war!
Your photograph shows men in traditional dress and carrying bundles in a very traditional way. I wonder how people went on who had a poor sense of balance!! Just a thought!
Thank you for sharing this.
My warm regards,
Graal (103034) 2014-02-18 3:20
another nice documentary photo from your archive. Amazing portraits on the street. Good scan and comment in note.
Have a nice day.
danos (99870) 2014-02-18 6:20
your experience from Afghanistan about four decades ago must were great,
remembering now after 42 years ago,how were the life in the country.
I like the snapshot with all these natives to are presented perfect in this daily snapshot.A good memory shot.
adramad (46986) 2014-02-18 8:18
A splendid capture your day with this so vivid scene of daily life in the population and a perfect job of scanning the image we see with great clarity and detail, showing the atmosphere of a place, which can not go today.
Very good brightness and sharpness, with beautiful colors.
Well seen and done better. I love it.
Have a good day.
RhodieIke (11744) 2014-02-18 11:43
My goodness don't they all look so serious, this scanned slide is great. Amazing note to go with this scene, a troubled country, I hope for their to be harmony with the different tribes, religions and people.
Miguel82 (27646) 2014-02-19 9:20
This is really a top picture Gert, more over taken at the begining of the 70's, good view of people wearing traditional clothes, a pov close to the population and local life, all the best, greetings
nikkitta (17066) 2014-02-20 13:20
Read the comments and your note that helps to bet appreciate the super scanned work, moving to see a so old capture with the faces of peopleso clear
Like the color comntrast green and white of the turbans, may be now same scene is happening in Herat
Well done, scanned work and note,TFS( meaning it)
So sorry about your book is not in english
I read a lot about this country, mainly from travelers writers you must know like Tim Mackintosh, Rory Steward,Sheila Paine
COSTANTINO (66581) 2014-02-21 12:57
Hello dear friend
I red your useful notes about your old photos
thanks for sharing with us your experience
and your valuable work and I also prefer
much older photos to take me back
this one with the men with traditional
costumes is a real postcard remitted to us
back to the past more than 41 years
you are a very luck man with thousand
photos and you must publish finally
a book excellent work from you
nice to meet you and visit your photos
you are wellcome too
have a nice weekend
kato (11630) 2014-02-21 23:04
You're capturing well this cityscape by a good composition and excellent tone/clarity, so it's interesting and impressive to see the street scene about forty years ago. many residents wearing traditional Turban and walking the passage look like moderate expression comparatively. We can sea row of small shops and chatting/resting residents at right side. As possible as seeing this spectacle, I can't imagine the current confused Afghanistan.
eldancer1 (36343) 2014-02-22 7:25
This image might be 41 years old but I don't think there's that much change is their clothing style and of course the life of those people are much more different than it was. Very nice street scene with serious looking people. Good lighting and nice details with wonderful colors considering the age of the slide. Well done, tfs.
mcmtanyel (24567) 2014-03-17 11:21
What was I doing in 1972? In August of 1972, I was looking forward to starting my second year in junior high school.
Wonderful composition, excellent colors in a timeless photo. Congrats & TFS!
Tigerlily (3379) 2014-04-27 11:50
Very interesting, Gert. I wonder what made you went to travel there...The first thought was impressive.
Thanks for the note.