Vice photographer Jonnie Craig clearly doesn't have enough shit to do, because he's had time to set up a great website for his zine, Huh, and that takes ages. Anyway, here's a really good interview he did with L.A. based photographer Noah Abrams. Noah recently traveled to Afghanistan to shoot a project about the emerging skateboarding scene there. He brought a handful of pro skaters to meet and skate with the locals.
Jonnie: Hi Noah, what's up?
Noah: Hi! It's a bit hectic, I've been travelling and shooting pictures everyday for the past two weeks. Today is my only day off for the next week so I'm trying to prepare a few shoots and catch up on my life a bit. Overall it's good though, thanks.
Cool. How did this Skateistan series come about?
I was sitting in my bed surfing the internet one morning and came across a video about skateboarders in Afghanistan. They were skating an old swimming pool that the Taliban had used to execute people in. It just struck me as one of the most positive things I had seen in a long time, especially out of Afghanistan.
So what happened next?
I started to do some research and came across a group called Skateistan who are doing amazing work for the kids in Afghanistan. After that I got really focused on finding a way to get over there and support them.
I'd imagine it's particularly difficult to get to Afghanistan.
It's definitely not easy. From idea to actually travelling there took around eight months. Getting the visas was the tricky part but we had some great support on the Afghan side. After all the organising we had to fly from the US to Germany, then finally to Kabul. It takes a little over two days to get there and we were on a weird travel high when we arrived.
So the skaters you brought were fine with just going out there and seeing what happens?
Well, no. I went out there with a few people first before I had even approached the skaters with the idea. I didn't feel comfortable asking people to go to an active war zone without having been there first. That allowed me to approach them with the all the positives and negatives, give them my opinion and allow them to make up their own minds.
How did they react?
I got some odd looks at first and there was some hesitation by a few people, but I don't recall anyone flat out declining. I think by nature skateboarders are curious and a lot more open to ideas that may be out of the ordinary.
Who ended up going on the trip?
Cairo Foster and I flew out there together and then Kenny Reed and Louisa Menke joined us in Europe. Maysam Faraj met us in Kabul.
So who are these two guys in the photo above?
They were the security at one of the spots we skated. They actually opened locked gates for us to skate this bombed out palace. I mean, imagine that happening anywhere else! When we had finished skating, they thanked us for leaving our families to visit them in Afghanistan. It was a very emotional moment for everyone.
I never would have expected a group of skateboarders to be so warmly welcomed in Afghanistan.
Not to get preachy, but at the end of the day, people are people. Culturally we may be very different but our goals are pretty much the same — we all want to be happy. No-one wants to suffer. This is why, for me, doing a trip like this is so important in the grander scheme of things. It's that cross-cultural dialogue that will hopefully help push things in the right direction for us all.
That makes sense. What were the kids like at skateboarding?
They were good for sure, considering what they have to live with from day-to-day. They are a tough bunch with no fears at all when it comes to skating.
Do you think you'll go back and visit them again?
I'd definitely like to.
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