This mother wears the traditional blue burka of Kabul. Everything is covered except for her hands and feet.
In the days of the Taliban it was compusory for women to wear this type of clothing in public. Even just showing her ankles could lead to a woman being whipped. Cosmetics and shoes with heels were also banned.
Fortunately now times are better and the burka is no longer required for women. Yet still the vast majority continue to wear it in public, especially in Kabul and the other major cities (less so in rural areas). Society and tradition appear to change more slowly than the law. It is said that some women prefer to wear the burka for cultural or security reasons but I also heard that in many cases it was under pressure from their husbands.
In Afghanistan, men usually wish to keep their women away from the prying eyes of strangers. Women themselves do not like attention and will usually turn away if they see a man looking in their direction.
It was unusual therefore to have the opportunity to take this photograph. It is saddening though that it is as a result of the woman's misfortune. With no other form of income she has resorted to begging in the streets. It must have been very difficult for her to ask a strange man for money. In normal circumstances an Afghan woman would never approach a man they did not know. In this case though she needed the dollar and surprisingly she allowed me to take her picture in return.
*** I have been away from this site for a little while but have noticed that this image has been viewed over 150,000 times! Anybody know why? ***
Critiques | Translate
mlopes (494) 2005-10-15 6:49
Sad story in every aspect, but it does teach us about the world, the traditions, diferences and history. fantastic work.
don_narayan (2014) 2005-10-15 10:00
very good note, touching. the photo is nice, the lines on the curve of the burka are very good.
Cormac (26565) 2005-10-15 11:24
Great shot and very informative note also. The lines of the fabric are very interesting, and catch the light just right, adding a lot of shape to the burka. Well done!
gebala (0) 2005-10-15 15:49
hello, amaizing photo, I read many about this culture, people, tradition and I admire all those woman but soon it will change. I can recoment you some books if you want....rgs
kabe (2011) 2005-10-15 17:09
Interesting object. Well done!
weswang (18223) 2005-10-16 12:34
Hi Jonathan, It is hard to imagine that how the ladies are treated in this way. It would be hard to move around and to get thing done this way. Thank you for bring out the picture to show the style, the tradition and the reality. Very well taken picture with nice details and clarity.
hmdparsi (489) 2005-10-17 6:30
you are realy a BRAVE & LUCKY man.This shot is very beautiful.wearin the face,the underconstruction building behind her,the closed shop and a turn off motorcycle make a sad space from Afghanestan with a poor social security.but perhaps ,smilly face of the child is for a better future.
jjbach (9324) 2005-10-17 7:34
Excellent portrait Jonathan, very interesting. The constrast between the small child and the woman in Burka is so dynamic. Very well done!
rabdelnoor (3423) 2005-10-17 14:07
Great shot showing these aspects of a very different culture. It is a shame that the women are treated this way, but every country has its own culture and we must respect that. I just hope the changes will not take so long to take effect.
Your portrait is great, especially due the ingenuous face of the kid. Very well done.
riclopes (35577) 2005-10-20 3:50
Fantastic shot Jonathan ! It is rather difficult to get the chance of taking this kind of photos...and this one has a great compo and sharpness. The texture of her clothes is just impressive! Congratulations!
All the best,
Stepan (27210) 2005-10-30 13:09
Must be an impressive moment ! I can't believe how you can live with such clothes.
sertac (117) 2005-12-22 6:41
I m calling ypu From Turkish monthly magazine. We want to use your photos taken on Afganistan. İf it is possible we ll print them with ypur signature.
Please call or write us...
Vato_Law (12732) 2006-05-10 19:11
it's a very strong composition, it's reallu sad that nowadays we still see these kind of pictures. About your picture it's well composed and detailed.
capthaddock (28790) 2006-05-30 10:23
Hi Jonathan - wow, fascinating, even though she looks more covered up than the ones in Yemen, I ve seen some that even wore black gloves, the boy looks pretty healthy though, and I don't want to know what kind of dish Colden Finger is.
akg (166) 2009-06-28 19:37
very interesting photo and very well taken. We can only guess the mood of the mother. But her baby presents a very active smile. The hope is the sunlight!
Thank you for this great take.
Warm regards, abhijit.
joscel1975 (489) 2009-07-12 6:34
Thanks for sharing this photo and emotional note. I hope that this handsome little boy will have a good opportunity in the future. He deserves it very much.
MuseumChick (10) 2010-02-03 6:54
Beautiful shot and cute boy.
ejsantella (29) 2010-03-31 17:46
The photo leaves me trying to balance, on one hand, the wish to see an individual - who is she? what's her story? - and, on the other, the impulse to see her as a (faceless) representative of a class of oppressed people. This is not the only society to send begging what it claims to value most. And the boy? How will he grow up feeling about a mother not allowed to show her face in public? Great shot.
Bournazel (0) 2010-04-06 2:23
Not easy to be allowed to take such a picture......
drizzless (122) 2012-04-02 15:03
Not at all surprised your photo has been view so many times as it brings out emotions and vast thoughts for discussions. It doesn`t matter that it has been taken some few years back. It still shows clearly and sharply the raw reality of a different world. I would see this a positive step from the lady`s side to express her freedom and be allowed to be seen by others. The little boy looks genuinely happy and hopefully it will be different in the future.
- Copyright: Jonathan Wilson (jbweasle) (9395)
- Genre: People
- Medium: Color
- Date Taken: 2005-08-16
- Categories: Daily Life
- Camera: Nikon D70, 18-70 1:3.5-4.5 DX
- Exposure: f/6.3, 1/320 seconds
- More Photo Info: view
- Photo Version: Original Version
- Travelogue: Afghanistan and Pakistan
- Date Submitted: 2005-10-15 6:39
- Favorites: 3 [view]