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Afghanistan in Photographs

A research guide for photography in Afghanistan from the Criss Library Archives & Special Collections

History of Photography in Afghanistan


Habibullah Khan was the Emir of Afghanistan from 1901 until his assassination in 1919. He was born in Tashkent, the eldest son of the Emir Abdur Rahman Khan, whom he succeeded by right of primogeniture in October 1901.

Photography gained popularity during the reign of Amir Habibullah. The Amir had a keen interest in photography, established a Royal Studio inside the palace. Public photo studios emerged along the banks of the Kabul River at that time. Most photographers were Afghans and Indians. Among the best known photographers were Amir's eldest son, Sardar Enayatullah and Mahmud Beg Tarzi, the editor of Seraj al-AkhbarTarzi began a photo competition in Seraj al-Akhbar newspaper.

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Arthur Paul Afghanistan Collection Overview

The UNO Criss Library Archives & Special Collections holds the Arthur Paul Afghanistan Collection, one of the largest collections of Afghan primary and secondary materials outside of the country. It contains over 20,000 titles in more than 20 languages including Dari, Pashto, and English.

The Arthur Paul Afghanistan Collection is comprehensive in scope. The library seeks to acquire materials pertaining to all aspects of Afghan life and culture, from prehistory to the present. Although the majority of the collection consists of history and literature, it also includes materials on economics, education, folklore, law, agriculture, language, architecture, music, geography, and geology. Items date from 18th Century to the present and include books, periodicals, microforms, maps, documents, newspapers, dissertations, organizational documents, and personal papers. Most of the collection consists of materials in English, and the two official languages of Afghanistan, Pashto and Dari (Afghan Persian).
In addition, there are publications in many other languages, including German, French, and Russian. Among the important items in the collection are the various publications of the Afghan resistance groups or "mujahideen" based in Pakistan during the 1980’s,  reports of the U.S. Department of State relating to Afghanistan and Kabul Radio Pashto News Monitoring Service. In 1982, the Library created the Afghan Oral History Project, which resulted in more than 46 hours of interviews describing the political situation and the personal experiences of many individuals since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.