press release

May 13, 2023 – Aug. 27, 2023

The Kabuler Cristina de Middel & Lorenzo Meloni

How do you photograph a region that has already been intensively documented over the past twenty years? This is what Magnum photographers Cristina de Middel (1975) and Lorenzo Meloni (1983) asked themselves when they set off to Afghanistan together in 2022. When the Western troops retreated in 2021, this also resulted in a diminished interest in the country in the Western media. With the Taliban repositioning themselves during De Middel and Meloni’s journey, the duo put Afghanistan in front of their lenses for the photo project ‘The Kabuler’. The photographs – powerful portraits, surrealistic landscapes, and everyday scenes – formed the point of departure for a one-off magazine entitled ‘The Kabuler’. Accompanied by essays, interviews, and stories, The Kabuler presents a nuanced image of Afghanistan, in which they have not shied away from light-hearted subjects and humour.

During this period of transition, De Middel and Meloni were able to travel through Afghanistan with relatively few restrictions. Among other places, the duo visited the cities of Kabul and Bamyan, passed abandoned villages, and traversed regions that resemble moonscapes. Along the way they talked to and photographed a wide variety of people from Afghan society. They portrayed Taliban fighters while walking around in amazement in an amusement park they previously had no access to as the city of Kabul was off limits to them during the presence of Western troops. They captured children playing cricket on a deserted US military base. And they also photographed Afghan women discreetly visiting beauty salons. During their journey De Middel and Meloni challenged themselves, and each other, to step out of their comfort zones and find new ways of making their photographs, looking for inspiration in each other’s different working methods. The Kabuler follows the editorial structure of a magazine. With features like lifestyle, fashion, and gastronomy, the photographers found a unique way of portraying the status quo of the country at the time of their journey and introduce the public to the many faces of Afghanistan.

Cristina de Middel (1975, Spain) is a photographer who is known for her conceptually-based photo projects. Through her work, De Middel shows that photography doesn’t necessarily have to refer to reality, but can just as easily concern fiction. De Middel has worked for clients like Christian Dior, Vogue USA, and FC Barcelona. In 2017 she received the International Center of Photography’s Infinity Award. In 2022, De Middel was appointed president of Magnum Photos.

Lorenzo Meloni (1983, Italy) is a photographer renowned for his portrayals of conflict and its impact on people and landscapes. With over a decade of experience in the Middle East and North Africa, Meloni has covered significant conflicts in Iraq, Libya, and Syria. His work aims to unravel complex narratives about the consequences of war. Meloni's photographs have been published in leading international magazines like Time Magazine, The Times, Le Monde, and Vanity Fair, and were exhibited globally, for instance at the Venice Biennale. Meloni has been a member of Magnum Photos since 2020.