Press Release

Photographs by Zalmaï
Essays by Atiq Rahimi and Daniel Girardin

Afghan photographer Zalmaï’s extraordinary and unforgettable photographs capture the slow, distressing drift of exile and dispossession: spectral figures against a stormy sky, a sheared row of peaks frame a figure like a sacred relic, horizons of men, both of this world and of some timeless land. This is a documentation of a journey through ambiguous territories—from Cuba to India, Mali to the Philippines, Indonesia to Egypt, and a return to Zalmaï’s native Afghanistan—wartorn once again—a search for place when one’s own land has been destroyed.

The changing interplay of composition, light, and visages infuse the photographs in this book, which speaks of transformation and disenfranchisement, not just of place but of spirit. Most of all, his work is about the fragility of presence. Moving through space in time, standing still, a breathless, near-hallucinatory consciousness is felt in each frame. The present seems a fragile membrane enveloping the past, making a subtle statement about man’s relation to the world he inhabits. This artist, born in Afghanistan and now carrying a Swiss passport, has lived life traveling lightly among different peoples, a citizen of the world in its largest sense. He has pursued the aesthetic of a landscape of faces and forms memorable for its poetic resonance. These are photographs that have been shaped over centuries by ideas carried in men’s souls. The interiors of these photographs are tangled and jagged, meandering and menacing, of this earth even as they reach to the sky. In the aggregate, they sketch a fragmented story of dispossession, of a voyage of the spirit, of the complex emotions of return. Paris-based Aghan novelist, Atiq Rahimi, contributes an original essay, “The Memory of the Mirror.” In ECLIPSE, these two voices offer insight into an Afghanistan lost, but not forgotten, and of the enduring legacy of exile.

An exhibition of the work will open at the Museé d’Elyseé, Lausanne and the Musee de la Croix Rouge, Geneva, before traveling internationally. In the U.S., Zalmaï’s work will tour throughout 2004, beginning with the House of Documents at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, and the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.


ZALMAI was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1964. Zalmaï fled his homeland in 1980 to escape the occupation of the Soviet Army. He found a new home in Switzerland, where he studied at the School of Creative Photography, Lausanne; and at the Center of Professional Education in Photography, Yverdon. Since his first solo show at 16/25 Gallery, Lausanne, he has had numerous others at museums and galleries throughout Europe. More recently, Zalmaï’s exhibition Afghanistan, produced by the International Red Cross, toured Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. Zalmaï has been a freelance photographer for publications such as the New York Times, Outside Magazine, the Geneva Tribune, Le Temps, L’Hebdo, and Reflex Magazine.

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