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IZZAT ULLAH HAQYAR  

Bismillah ir-Rahmani ir-Rahim.

"In the name of Almighty Allah, the most merciful and gracious."

Izzat Ullah, 19, a Peshawar-born Afghan blesses his work and takes a family photograph.

See a video of the process here.

When Izzat Ullah started working on the box camera he was so small he had to set the tripod to its lowest point so he could reach the sleeve. In the mornings he attended school; in the afternoons he worked close to the once sprawling Nasir Bagh Afghan refugee camp in the Board area of Peshawar, a one-time regular pitch for Afghan box camera photographers in the city.

His family originally came as refugees to Peshawar from Jalalabad across the border and Izzat helped provide for them working as a box camera photographer.

Because he was so young - a boy - starting out, families mindful of their women would often choose him over adult male photographers to take their pictures. His popularity, he claims, caused friction with some of the other photographers who seemed to think he was invading their pitch. They would open the back door on his camera when he was trying to work exposing the photo paper inside to light and ruining his photographs. Recalling these memories now, Izzat Ullah laughs.

Izzat Ullah's occupational heyday came between 2004 and 2005 when the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) repatriated hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees from Peshawar. They offered cash per-head to returning refugees, he says. The refugees required a group photo of their family for documentation (the amount of heads displayed in the photo indicated the amount of per-head repatriation money that would be paid out to them). Because box camera photographers could provide the photos economically they were in high demand.

There were in fact so many customers, he says, some days he didn’t have time to eat. Some of the photographers worked in groups with their own cashier, he recalls, and used a free-standing backdrop with a simple wooden frame (see a video of the making of the backdrop frame here).

Izzat stopped working on the camera over a year ago. At the time he was told by many of his friends and family to burn it. They said it was simply useless nowadays.

But Izzat refused, he just couldn't bring himself to burn his camera.