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Remembering Shah Marai Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

30 April 2018

Shah Marai, the chief photographer for Agence France-Presse in Kabul, was among the victims of twin suicide bombings in the capitol of his homeland today.

He joined AFP as a driver in 1996, as the Taliban seized power, and took photos on the side. In 2002 he became a full-time photo stringer, rising through the ranks to become Kabul photo chief. At the time of his death, AFP had distributed over 18,000 of his photos.

AFP's Global News Director Michele Leridon tweeted:

We can only honour the extraordinary strength, courage and generosity of a photographer who covered often traumatic, horrific events with sensitivity and consummate professionalism.

New York Times correspondent Mujib Mashal also honored his colleague:

On days like this, truth sucks. Truth hurts. Yes it's true, and confirmed. Our friend, the great photographer Shah Marai, is among the dead of the second Kabul explosion this morning. He was doing his job, like he had over two decades.

In When Hope Is Gone, Marai described his working conditions under the Talibans:

They hated journalists, so I was always very discreet -- I always made sure to put on the traditional shalwar kameez outfit when going outside and I took pictures with a small camera that I hid in a scarf wrapped around my hand. The Taliban restrictions made it extremely difficult to work -- they forbid the photographing of all living things, for example, be they men or animals.

Once when he was staking photos of people lining up outside a bakery, the Taliban confronted him. He told them he was just taking pictures of the bread. And because he was using a film camera, that's as far as it went.

"I rarely put my name on my photos at the time," he recalled. "I just signed them 'stringer,' so as not to draw unwanted attention to myself."

He recalled the city coming to life again after the defeat of the Taliban. "It was a time of great hope. The golden years."

But in 2004, the Taliban returned, spreading out "like a virus," he wrote. He described what life had become in Kabul:

I don't dare to take my children for a walk. I have five and they spend their time cooped up inside the house. Every morning as I go to the office and every evening when I return home, all I think of are cars that can be booby-trapped or of suicide bombers coming out of a crowd. I can't take the risk. So we don't go out. I remember all too well my friend and colleague Sardar, who was killed with his wife, a daughter and a son while on an outing at a hotel, with only his small son somehow surviving the attack.

In addition to an AFP tribute on YouTube, Alan Taylor has posted 41 of his photos and the BBC has a set of his image as well. They are, more than war photos, a portrait of a people.

Marai leaves behind two wives and six children, including a newborn daughter, his first, AFP said.

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