"In a way for me, the Taliban portraits taken by local Afghan photographers in Kandahar remain the most surprising imagery from the time after 9/11. They are far more surprising, insightful, confusing and intimate than anything I could have dreamt of photographing there.
When the Taliban came to power, according to their strict interpretation of Islam, they imposed a total ban on imagery of any human being or other mammal. Flies and fish were theoretically ok. Heads were removed from statues, donkeys scratched out on road signs. All photo studios in Kandahar, the capital of their movement had to close.
A long dispute between Taliban representatives and UN officials ensued since they demanded passports without passport pictures. After several years though there was an urgent need for passport pictures for forms to obtain humanitarian aid. So, partly, only for the use by the Taliban themselves, the studios were allowed to reopen. According to the photographers, the Taliban then secretly started demanding to be photographed ‘the old way.’ Colorfully retouched images, in front of the ubiquitous Swiss backdrop, holding flowers, holding each other’s hands.”
Thomas Dworzak, discovered in early 2002