During a 1977 school expedition, British photographer Mark Parrish documented his experience through his love of taking images of the people and places he encountered.
The then 17 year old had no idea he was capturing a unique window of peace in an otherwise war-ravished country. Post British-Afghan Wars, and mere months before the unrest of Soviet rule- and the resulting Mujahadeen rebellion, the photos offer us a unique glimpse into the everyday life of a once peaceful country.
With the current devastation throughout Afghanistan, Thomas James Parrish, (Mark’s son) – himself an accomplished photo journalist – saw the photographs as an opportunity to shine light back onto a country so often portrayed in shadow. He took the initiative to dust off the negatives and bring them back to life, coming up with the ‘Prints for Afghanistan’ campaign, with the aim to raise much needed awareness and funds for the country his father so fondly remembers.
“I was seeing the devastation in Afghanistan, particularly over the past few weeks, and knew I wanted to do something.”
“My dad’s photos have always been around me, throughout my childhood, and his photographs from Afghanistan always struck me as something quite significant and iconic.”
Thomas, a Manly local, has been working with his London-based father via early morning and late night video calls to choose the five images that most capture the innocence of the welcoming and peaceful Afghan people.
“My father was immediately excited by the idea, he has been really saddened by what’s happening in Afghanistan. He has always wondered what happened to the people he met there and the children he photographed.”
The images were originally taken on Ilford black and white film by Mark on his fathers Canon Canonet camera, and Mark’s own Olympus OM1, on his trip from Kabul to the peaks of the Hindu Kush.
Mark and Thomas wanted five images that incorporated different elements of Afghan life and culture, that worked well as a set of five, but could also tell their own story individually.
Thomas says his father was adamant that an image of the children he met was included, saying it not only captures a moment of Afghan life, but is also a reminder of the innocence and life that has been lost in the years since.
Other images include a street scene from Kabul that is somehow timeless, an alleyway workshop depicting smiling and at ease tailors, and a dynamic photo of Nuristani Wrestling, that is filled with movement and life.
“We wanted images that incorporate the landscape, but we really wanted to include the people and their traditions.”
“The Nuristani wrestling image was taken on Afghan Independence Day, and the image shows people at ease and celebrating their culture.”
“One of the English boys my dad was with actually got involved with the wrestling- they were welcomed and cheered for giving it a go and getting involved in the cultural traditions.”
Thomas says the project aims to not only raise funds, but to also preserve a memory of Afghanistan that is exempt from the horror it is so often associated with.
“We want to provide a secondary narrative that is exempt from war and destruction, that shows and honours the country for its hospitality, generosity and kindness of its people, which is what my dad experienced throughout his time there.”
“We also want to engage people in the humanity of the Afghan people, and ensure these memories of Afghanistan prevail and remain relevant in history.”
Minus printing and framing costs, 100 percent of proceeds raised from the sale of the prints are going to AfghanAid- a UK/Kabul based charity that provides emergency support for families whose lives have been uprooted by the conflict.
Partnering with Manly Picture Framing, a selection of five framed, archival prints are on sale now for $235 each, or all five for $1,000, and can be shipped anywhere within Australia, and internationally.
The prints are available to view and purchase directly from Thomas’ website: https://www.thomasjamesparrish.com/