While working in Afghanistan, Brooklyn-based photographer David Lang stumbled upon street photographers working with incredibly unique, hand-made cameras, similar in look to a large-format camera. The wooden box camera, called “Kamra-e-faoree”, translating to “Instant Camera,” is both a camera and darkroom in one—Lang explains how they work: “They use shutter-less lenses and shoot paper negatives that are developed inside the camera using small containers of chemistry. The negatives are then re-photographed using the same process and the customer is given both the positive and negative images. This time consuming and unique process yields amazingly stark images that are without comparison to modern image making.”
Proud owners stand alongside their creations like a magician with his bag of tricks, waiting to capture a face, a moment with a box seemingly full of possibility. Sadly, these kamras are not as prolific as they used to be, partly because while Afghanistan remained under Taliban control, they were hidden by their owners or destroyed by the Taliban, and because digital photography is becoming more common and accessible in Kabul.
The Afghan Box Camera Project works to keep a record of these unique kamras, and also provides instructions on building your own, which Lang is currently in the works of.