25 November 2001

November 25, 2001
SLIDE SHOW: Time Out of Joint In a Ruined Land

Photographs by STEPHEN CROWLEY The story of Afghanistan is like Job's, except God has not yet appeared in the whirlwind to explain the suffering and set things right. This is a land where war has put time out of joint, where people live in ruins resembling archaeological sites, using the tools of centuries gone by. The tools � hand-hewn wooden furrows plowing the earth, hand-shaped clay ovens baking bread � create the beautiful necessities that make life bearable. On a street corner in Jalalabad, Materullah Farmhada, 15, makes his living with a homemade box camera, taking people's pictures for keepsakes and documents. His technique is the same as Mathew Brady's in the Civil War, 140 years ago, though he uses paper negatives instead of glass. He lent us his camera on Friday. We stopped passers-by at random � street urchins, ragpickers, farmers, tradesmen, freelance gunmen � all shattered by fighting and praying for peace. We took their portraits and spoke with them while the negatives developed. The negatives were photographed with a digital camera and transformed into positive images in a laptop computer. It was Ramazan, a man with the eyes of the ancient mariner, who told us how war had torn Afghanistan. When he was young, he said, his village was a paradise of orchards and roses, a peaceable kingdom. Now they are gone, he said, and "we don't know what the weather is or what the seasons are." � TIM WEINER


04:45am 11/25/01

From: Deborah Natsios <>
Subject: Whither Materulla Farmhada?

To: Tim Weiner / Stephen Crowley

"Slide Show -- Images of Suffering: In an Afghan city, a 15-year-old makes his living taking pictures with a homemade camera. They paint a sad portrait of a land where war has put time out of joint."


Description in online edition suggests we're about to see a 15-year-old street photographer's raw work -- a very intriguing prospect. Instead, seems the kid's home-made camera's been appropriated by western visitors. Why does this all not seem quite right? At the very least, introductory description should be revised to not misrepresent slide show content. Or better yet, show us some of Mr. Farmhada work, even if it is not the stuff of an accomplished photojournalist -- which Mr. Crowley clearly is.

Regards, Deborah Natsios NYC


Return-Path: <>
Date: Sun, 25 Nov 2001 10:51:24 -0500
To: Deborah Natsios
From: Tim Weiner Subject: Re: Whither Materullah Farmhada?

Hi. We wrote that he lent us his camera. That's what appeared in the paper. Doesn't seem much room for misinterpretation there. The website obviously screwed up. Sorry we offended you. tw


Date: Sun, 25 Nov 2001 18:15:08 -0500
From: J
Subject: Materullah Farmhada's Camera
Cc:, John Young

I don't see the problem. Just snarf the kid's old homemade camera, take all the pictures you want with it, and offer him a few yellow food packets or American dollars in return. Wouldn't want to mess up the byline credits! After all, we're world-class American journalists, and these poor miserable bastards are just photo ops. My, my, aren't they photogenic! I bet Matthew Brady would have done the same thing! And if that kid ever wants to use OUR Nikkons in New York, all he has to do is ASK! BTW, we can't seem to find any DEAD BODIES or WAR CARNAGE to photograph here !!! ... Must be there ISN'T any war carnage in GOOD wars...!