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AHMAD ZIA ANSARI  

Arriving early, Ahmad Zia Ansari stays working in his photo studio, located on a busy street in the centre of Mazar-e-Sharif, until just before noon everyday. Infrequently - the last time it happened was three weeks before our visit - he might be requested to make a hand-coloured portrait like the one he's holding above. Here's a short film of Mr. Ansari hand-colouring a portrait and another of him 'retouching' the negative.

Whatever he happens to be doing, before the clock strikes twelve he'll shut up shop and go to the mosque for mid-day prayers; after prayer it's time to eat lunch before heading to his part-time job as a chemistry teacher in a local school; he returns to the shop around half past five where he stays until the evening.

His home is only around the corner, and sometimes his children pop in - he has three boys and a girl. Fardas, his eldest son, helps out on occasion; he's already able to use Photoshop as well as read and write some English,which helps when using the software.

Ahmad's brother, a mullah - his father was also a mullah - calls around from time to time and occasionally looks after the shop.

Around the shop, a kaleidoscope of photographs and photographic paraphernalia lingers on dusty shelves: old chemicals, stockpiles of frames, a Zenit camera.

He used to have a kamra-e-faoree he worked with. In the morning time with bright sun, exposure should be five to six seconds, he tells us, but if it's dark like in the winter, then a minute, but the customer shouldn't even drop his eyes.

He also had a 'Kiev', a Russian camera; he used to take pictures of the Russians during the Soviet occupation with that camera.

But his experiences of foreigners isn't limited to Russians. After the Taliban took control of Mazar-e-Sharif, Ahmad left Afghanistan. He was two years working in Turkey, spent time in Italy, the Ukraine, Poland and Moscow; he wanted to go to London but his application for refugee status was rejected by UK authorities as the Taliban were defeated by that time.