Afghanistan -- A Distant War

June 19 through September 10, 2014

Robert Nickelsberg

Robert Nickelsberg has documented Afghanistan since 1988, when he accompanied a group of mujahedeen crossing the border from Pakistan. He has worked as a TIME Magazine contract photographer for nearly thirty years, specializing in political and cultural change in developing countries. His images have appeared in publications and broadcasts that include TIME, The New York Times, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, The Guardian, Paris Match, Stern, CNN, and NBC. His photographs have been exhibited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the International Center of Photography, and at the New America Foundation in New York.

As a TIME Magazine contract photographer, Nickelsberg, was based in New Delhi from 1988 to 2000. During that time, he documented conflicts in Kashmir, Iraq, Sri Lanka, India, and Afghanistan. He was one of the few photographers who had first hand exposure to the early days of the rise of fundamentalist groups in the Afghanistan-Pakistan tribal areas and al-Qaeda, and his work provides a unique up close view of the Soviet withdrawal, the rise of the Taliban, and the invasion by the U.S. Nickelsberg moved to New York in 2000 and continues to travel overseas—reporting on the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003—and focus on chronicling the devastating psychological effects of war in Kashmir.

In 2008, he was awarded grants from the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, and from the South Asia Journalists Association to document and report on post-traumatic stress disorder in Kashmir after 20 years of insurgency. Nickelsberg serves on the advisory board of the Kashmir Initiative at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University.

About the Exhibit

As a photographer for TIME Magazine, Nickelsberg first observed Afghanistan in 1988 when he accompanied a group of mujahideen across the border from Pakistan. Following the Soviet Army’s withdrawal, Nickelsberg documented the country’s decent into a brutal civil war, 1992-1996, resulting in the Taliban takeover of the country in October, 1996. Since 2001, he’s continued going back to chronicle what he calls “America’s War.”

Throughout his time in Afghanistan, Nickelsberg has compiled a powerful photographic essay that portrays the country’s historic transformation. Most Afghans never experience first-hand the events he captured, and through these experiences, he gained an unusually deep understanding of this complex country.

This remarkable exhibition of photographs is composed of images that are captioned with places, dates, and Nickelsberg’s own extensive commentary. Timely and important, the exhibition and publication serves as a reminder that Afghanistan and the rest of the world remain inextricably linked, no matter how much we long to distance ourselves from its painful realities.