Speed Reads

Look at this

These glossy Taliban passport photos will make you do a double take


As The New Yorker prepares to move to 1 World Trade Center, the magazine's photo department is digging through its archives and sharing interesting finds online. The photo archivists didn't disappoint when they recently posted images of Taliban soldiers that looked like they were taken in 1993 at a Glamour Shots in the local mall.

The New Yorker's Thea Traff explains that in 2001, Magnum photographer Thomas Dworzak traveled to Kandahar, where photographs and art featuring the human image were forbidden. Pictures were necessary for passports, however, so Taliban leader Mullah Omar bent the rules and selected a few businesses in Kandahar that could take the photos.

One of the photographers, Said Kamal, told Dworzak that the men were secretly brought into the back of his studio, where they posed with everything from plastic flowers to guns. Kamal was a master of retouching photos, and in post-production he would add rainbows and other things that don't exactly remind you of the Taliban. The final product was a vibrant photograph that contrasted greatly with the hardened fighter.

Dworzak wanted to leave the city with some of the pictures, and the photographers were more than willing to sell. He remembers one of them telling him, "Most of them are dead anyway." The photos are featured in Dworzak's book Taliban. A sample of them is below, and more can be seen on The New Yorker website. --Catherine Garcia