In 2009, The New York Times Lens blog highlighted the dangers to photographers in Afghanistan, with writer James Estrin saying, “Covering Afghanistan is an extremely dangerous assignment
for any photojournalist—avoiding ambushes, snipers, roadside
bombs and kidnappings take priority over taking photographs.”
Why would anyone rush to a country that so many are fleeing?
For Shome Basu, it’s about curiosity and, above all, an unwavering
commitment to covering the stories that matter most.
Some people thrive on conflict. Basu, a photographer based in
New Delhi, India, is a self-described conflict photographer—after the
fighting is over, he goes in to document what’s been left behind; or,
more accurately, the people who’ve been left behind.
Take his trip to Afghanistan in 2002, immediately after the
Taliban was overthrown. As soon as flights were allowed into the
unstable country, Basu booked a ticket to Kabul. “I wanted to see
what it looked like,” he says. “I went in without an idea of the story
that I wanted to do, but it was a great experience.”
While he saw what the conflict had done to the country, what
he remembers most from his time there is the humanity of its
people. A few experiences stick out in his mind: The first occurred
when he was shopping at the outdoor food market. Basu, who
speaks Bengali, Hindi and English, couldn’t speak Dari, the native
language. As he attempted to communicate with the street vendor
who told him his bill totaled 400,000, he began to panic.