Afghanistan as a love story

Sandra Calligaro grew up in the suburbs of Paris in a loving family. From a father who was passionate about beautiful Italian motorcycles, he pursued a taste of adventure. His mother, for her part, passed on to him the social fiber and the taste of the visual arts. This unique blend, served with an undeniable talent and courage, led him one day to Afghanistan, a thriving country that he affirms every day, with dignity and beauty.

I am loyal and honest smiled Sandra Calligaro at a table in La Caravane, a bar in the tenth arrondissement. Twenty years ago, he worked there three or four nights a week to pay for his studies. Here he said he learned his business, by observing the clients he took pictures of during his service. As a teenager, he dreamed of becoming a designer, but a year of preparation for art schools revealed another vocation, the war photographer. ” Journalism schools did not appeal to me, so I went to Paris VIII, for the Photography and Multimedia course. »

He presented his master’s thesis in the small room in the back, a stone’s throw from the counter. At that time, he took a picture of the night world and the students were called to support outside the walls, in a place that was reasonable for them. He spends his free time in the lab, shooting black and white silver images he took of an old Minolta that was stolen from his parents.

To be a man

Among the regular customers, there is the famous journalist Paul Comiti, who likes to talk about his benefits. One day, he informed her that he was leaving Afghanistan. ” I’ll take you to your luggage »He throws at the base. ” No, but it’s a good place to start. Enthusiastic, he resigned, bought a digital device and boarded the plane on March 22, 2007. I borrowed 1500 € from my parents. I actually never returned them. »

He had in his pocket three phone numbers given by Paul Comiti, to the taxi, restaurant and hotel. She met him almost two months ago and he gave her a perch: a journalist from Paris Match was looking for a photographer. His first published image was a portrait of Hamid Karzai, the president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The magazine will come out on May 16, the day he returned to Paris, and he bought it at the airport store.

Afghanistan made me be a person. I owe him a lot to this country. he continued. He returned there at the end of the year, this time with the idea of ​​a long -running topic on drug users, which he would not publish. But in this country contrary to everything he knew until then, he felt like he was in a bubble, able to work, in the network. And when he returned to the Caravan, it was to make his first exhibition there. Fifteen years later, one of the images still hangs on the wall, like a promise fulfilled.

Lives in Kabul

On his third trip, in the spring of 2008, he chained orders. The following year he met his former partner there, also French. He studied in Dari, moved to Kabul, where he lived until 2017. During this decade, he did documentary work in the middle classes of Afghanistan’s capital, remarkable for its documentary richness and viewing quality. of it. Many of his images, with the grandeur of classical paintings, find their place in a book, Afghan dream.

Back in Paris – in the tenth arrondissement – he continued to go to Kabul regularly, for three weeks, a month, sometimes more. “ Every time I tell myself this is the last trip, I have to keep going. But then, he has to think things through, to talk to people before it’s photographed. For him, emotions and not facts drive the image. ” By spending time in France, I started looking at topics. I also work elsewhere. But there is no second Afghanistan. »

Two or three times he was frightened. When a bomb exploded on a stone’s throw from his home in 2017, he went out to photograph the rescue operation. But a rumor has been circulating that has raised fears of further attacks. Everyone was scattered, sheltering as much as they could. Hands over his eyes, he waited for the explosion not to come. Another time, in 2019, leaving a village with a journalist reporting for Arte, he feared being kidnapped by the Taliban. The driver was able to fall asleep on their watch. The militiamen did not see his camera.

Show daily life under the Taliban regime

Last year, like many others, he admitted to being amazed at the speed of the Taliban’s takeover. The threat has been there since the widespread withdrawal of NATO forces in 2014, but here everyone is accustomed to it. In early August 2021, he was still in Kabul, for the 20th anniversary of the American intervention. These days, journalists are preparing for the siege of the capital. After the visa problem, he left the area on August 12, thinking of returning immediately. Three days later, while the Taliban took control of the city without a fight, he was stranded at Istanbul airport.

He left for Paris. For ten days, he could not sleep, making lists of people to expatriate. ” The fall in Kabul was not covered, but was able to get some fixers. He returned to the scene at the end of August. His recent photographs, like those before them, are not the work of the war photographer he envisioned to be a student, but of an inspired documentary filmmaker during the dictatorship. He will continue this work this summer.

This country is like a love story, sometimes you get tired, you get tired, but in the end you don’t. I don’t want to be a specialist, I’m not a fan of country history. He just let me build a life. And then Afghanistan is always a good adventure! he ended laughing.

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