Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rubin: Fashion Shoot -- Afghanistan 1968 (Updated)

Words fail me.

The photographer, Fred Maroon, was the father-in-law of a friend of mine until his recent death. These pictures remind us of other things that have passed away, some of which will be eternally missed, others maybe not so much ....

Left (from the gallery):
The Chapandez are the riders who have made Buzkashi the wildest, most uninhibited display of horsemanship in the world. Buzkashi is Afghanistan's national game, played for state visits and also on ceremonial occasions like the king's birthday. Chapandez convene at stadiums (this one at Kunduz), and form two teams of 30 to 100 men. The horsemen then fight for possession of a dead calf. A rider, at full gallop, with the calf in one hand and a whip in the other, tries to round a stake at the end of a 450 meter field — often flattening a few spectators on the way. The Chapandez in traditional costume, line up behind model Ann Cosyns in an American coat of embroidered pigskin, a silk-satin pouf skirt and bodice.

Right: Mullah Umar's nightmare.

Update: Sorry, I forgot to turn off the internet irony filters. Consequently at least one reader has accused me of favoring the imperialist objectification of women. Let me clarify:
What we miss: Bamiyan Buddhas (background, second picture).
Not so much: Western fashion shoots of models wearing haram clothing in front of costumed natives.

20 comments:

Helena Cobban said...

I'm still trying to figure out why words fail you. Because of the gross objectification of women involved in that whole photo-shooting venture? Because of the incredible imperial chutzpah involved in staging this shoot with flesh-exposing (objectified) women models inside someone else's country-- and then being able to hire large numbers of "natives" to pose behind her? Because of the troubling mix of quite unexamined gender and imperial politics involved in all that?

Unless, G-d forbid, you think that the "capture" of these images of marketized and objectified women somehow represent "women's liberation"?

Maybe women and men in Afghanistan and the rest of the world have better things to worry about?

I'm also trying to figure out what the point of this post is? Tell us, do!

Barnett R. Rubin said...

You understood it quite well, only for some reason you think that I don't.
Things we miss: Bamiyan Buddhas (rear of second picture).
Things we don't miss so much: 1. "Gross objectification of women involved in that whole photo-shooting venture."
2. "Incredible imperial chutzpah involved in staging this shoot with flesh-exposing (objectified) women models inside someone else's country-- and then being able to hire large numbers of 'natives' to pose behind her." 3. "The troubling mix of quite unexamined gender and imperial politics involved in all that."
Note also that the model in front of the buzkashi players is wearing a pigskin vest, forbidden in Islam. You missed that.

Cossack in a Kilt said...

I'm still trying to figure out how the photoshoot qualifies as a "gross objectification of women", and whether the phrase "flesh-exposing (objectified) women models" was intended with tongue in cheek.

Although I am certainly no fan of the fashion industry, the outfits the models are wearing don't really seem to expose all that much flesh. By today's standards, the outfits are really quite tame.

I can sort of grok the imperialism objection, but find the use of quotes around "natives", and the assertion of a "troubling mix of quite unexamined gender and imperial politics" a bit po-mo for my taste.

However, to reassert my good bloggy credentials, I will say that I regard our recent adventures in both Mesopotamia and Afghanistan to be rather better examples of "incredible imperial chutzpah" than a fashion shoot forty years ago.

Anonymous said...

Ah, thank you for the post and explanation for I did not understand the post initially.

Why have we come to the point where everyone agrees we should be in Afghanistan, only more so? I am stupid, I guess, but I want us out or at least to stop the shelling and bombing that we do.

No; I just want us out and to offer economic assistance.

Helena Cobban said...

FWIW I could not actually see the Buddha carvings in the Bamiyan photo; and yes, the destruction of those I do sorely miss.

The construction of the post was interesting. I find that when being in discussion in English with people for whom English may be a hard-won second, third, fourth, or fifth language it is generally courteous to give them an explicit hint when you're using irony. It doesn't harm people who already "got" the irony, but it sure as heck helps people who may have struggled to read the text and then find themselves confused by the effort to "place" its literal meaning.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr. Rubin for posting these beautiful photos! I love women, I love adventuring and learning about Afghanistan's peaceful past.

Ms. Cobban, you need to take your political correctness forward to a conservative blog not backward about photos of some event sixty years ago in a progressive blog. You are trying to shut down the space of my imagination.

Anonymous said...

Again, please explain to me whay we can't just leave Afghanistan. Why can't we leave Iraq and Afghanistan? Why can't we stop bombing Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan and Somalia? Why?

Please, I do not understand. Why can't we leae and offer peaceful assistance?

Anonymous said...

What would you answer to Martin Luther King? Why can't we leave Afghanistan?

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