In 2003 I was invited to Afghanistan by Minister Hanif Atmar, the then Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development. Along with his ministry, I worked with the UN for the Bonn Conference, the fist major donor conference since the overthrow of the Taliban the year before.
It was my first experience of photojournalism, my fist also in a conflict zone. I was scared. All shot on very poor kit and using reversal film, I recently came across my poorly scanned scans. It was eye opening. I spent a great deal of time in Afghanistan over the years, and on each subsequent visit, the security and optimism deteriorated, such that when I left for good in 2012, you did feel your life was in danger, and frequently so.
When I look at these images, uncovered after all these years, I recall how friendly, how safe, how deeply optimistic an experience it was. With the international intervention, the Taliban had scattered, donors flooded the country with promises of goodwill, and people dreamed for the first time since the Soviet invasion of 1979. There was a genuine hope.
The pictures tell off a country without western influence, of poverty of course, but with simple values from a long standing cultural heritage. When I view my images from later years, I see the agitation, the influence of the west, in the mobile phones and the leather jackets, the motorcycles imported from India, the blast barriers and security apparatus of western interests.
If I could go back to 2003 with a film camera, and the experience and skills I have now, I would do so in thrice, because even then, the world had yet to fully comprehend the consequences of 9/11.
We were all a little more innocent then.