Pretty busy in Geneva, forth and back to Ticino where actually some palestinian photos are exposed. Being there was a chance working with guitar hero Luca Princiotta ( in his studio for arranging sounds I recorded in Kabul. A Ruba player was according the instrument and I imagined this as a soundtrack for a slideshow with my afghan photo project. The concept was ok but the sound eventually was very disturbing after only a little while. Luca has been able after long trying and researching to find a great solution for a strong effect with very little but skilful interventions.
So for my few but, as I can see,  loyal blog followers (!) a secret preview is here to be seen. Please do not share it on facebook nor in other ways. Is part of the content we want to be discovered on the Phovea Agency site when online (hopefully) soon. Comments very welcome! Changes can still be made. It's good to listen to it with headphones! Now I'm preparing for a short trip to Bosnia, on assignment with the DSC Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. So soon new multimedia slideshows to be seen! Thank you for keeping on visiting although I am not really into blogging when "home"!


How patient must one be? 6 months now since back from Afghanistan. Still waiting for my work to exist. Everything would be easier having lots of money and being able not to run after jobs.  Same patience required for seeing phovea online. 2 years? But no doubt this all will see the light of the sun. We had a lot of laughters seeing the security cam pics taken at Actinic printing lab. You can see me walking round in circles like in a cage. Thinking. Testing. Asking to reprint... Worried about the costs. Totally in love with the results. Planned is a publication in LaCité in September. By then the work will exist. Fabio Martini is writing the text wich I really think will be great. Then we will try to get published. Seriously. And just this days I had an interesting Afghanistan related assignment. This country somehow has to do with me in strange ways. But now fully concentrating on the 11 days Locarno Film Festival job as official photographer this year. Will be fun!


Almost 4 months since coming back from Afghanistan. Really happy having quiet a lot of (even if mostly small, but not only) assignments. Time seems to be missing for the rest. For the agency. For a structured social life. And for finally editing Afghanistan and showing the work a bit around to editors or gallerists... or friends. What did suddenly wake me up? Swiss Reporters Sans Frontières publishes a beautiful magazine. I was asked to show some new work to be considered for publication. I called Aurélien at Actinic. And the poor guy was so enthousiastic about the work and the challenge that he agreed to work days, but mostly nights, on my negatives and raws. Memory works in mysterious ways, and I keep strange moments in mind, related to this: Rain in the dark. My bag smelling of kebab I braught him late in the evening. Remember the smell of coffee we got by his car in the morning. Same car stopping down in the street in front of my flat at 2 in the morning bringing the prints. Heavy rain all te time. Me wet, waiting at bus stops. Remember all the test prints. Us standing there in the lab and discussing heavily about things only passionate people can stand. 15 prints I brought to Zurich to an editor.
What has been said is no matter for a blog but in the end: some text is missing. So I contacted the couple of swiss magazines I know the writers to be good, and proposed this new work to be published. Telling them allready the text would be a contribution also to RSF. Answers were very positive. Especially from the italian-speaking and the french-speaking region. Still havent' got answers from RSF. But I'm thankful the proposal came to wake me up and put things in motion. This all is costing really some money. So I better get published as much as possible! Things change so much if you want to get shown for prestige, or to get some money "back". And the Phovea agency? Our informatic programmer is planning beeing online by the end of august... Can't wait!

And meanwhile I keep on editing. Most of this pictures will just be archive. Hard to find what really fits the purpose.

ROCKS AND ROLLS (30.03.12)

Time of sleepless nights, fearing the film rolls are empty, is over. No more fantasizing about accidental masterpieces either. Here they are. They survived all the security checks x-ray machines, the cold and the dust: my hasselblad afghan portraits. And all memories overwhelm me finally again. Feelings of a strange dream transform in clear images. Not just on glossy paper. Memories of sounds, temperatures and smells are all here. It's like I confined my feelings into the rolls (as a protection?) and now, as rubbing Aladin's lamp, they magically return intact and unaffected. Pure. And I LOVE photography more then everything else. Not for it's memorizing role. For being what it is. Only images in the end. Bidimensional notes about a short moment, trying to record a relationship, a tension. And here we are sitting in Phoveas office, three around a table, sipping some beers (very strange, yes) and rearranging clichés to form a series. Our expressions like the ones chess players must have: waiting for the turn to make a move. Displacing one photo, putting it next to another; exclude a face, bring in a glance and everything gets a new meaning. I longed for so long and wanted so much this moment when we would be editing work toghether as a team. And even if our website is still not ready to be online, I am already now very proud of Phovea. Secretly proud of myself having found the power to start this for real. And of course lucky having found friends crazy enough for following and still not letting go. No doubts this days about being a photographer! Great assignments ahead. Great feeling. And total faith. 

HOME (17.03.12)

When I opened my backpack once at home, for a moment I brought one univers into another. It was so much stronger then showing images. It was the smell. Eventually the stinking of my clothes, yes, but more... a smell of far away. It happened at my parents place in my room I have since kid. It's great to change worlds. Not easy. But strong and important.

I am really impressed noticing that still a number of persons visit this blog daily. So I feel a pressure keeping on writing something, despite the fact I was thinking of the blog more as a letter for family and friends whilst abroad. And it would be nice having a couple of interactions, I am very courious about some reported signals from brazil or the states... who's out there? :)
Fortunately I got my visa in a couple of days and could fly away from Kabul without any further complications. Really appreciated a night at the hotel in Dubai after a month of washing myself with only little, gas boiled, water inside my room. Finally had a whisky. But it wasn't that amazing experience. When you change universe it feels like you never left. Like you were in Dubai the day before. And the big Kabul experience first gets compressed to a couple of images. But very blured. Strange. When I am inside an airplane, also it feels like yesterday the last time. Same for getting back to the office or the pub. Wich makes me a bit sad. And wich reminds me of my paranoia and the WHY I need to take pictures or wright notes. But arriving in Milano I understud seeing my mom's happy smile that I have been away more than a couple of days. I realized everyone at home really was worrying about me in the dangerous country they had on evening news on tv. At a point I almost started to believe I did something dangerous and heroic but instantly bringing reality back and knowing exactly what I have experienced. I still am completely unable to answer to people when asked how it was. It's like "what you expect me to say?" I don't have any war story. But when I just start telling some funny things from the daily life I realize it do has been a very special experience in a country where not everyone is willing to go.
It does feel good being here. The sun shines. It's spring. Nature is awesome. I allready got some assignments and it feels like really good being back. It's great going away also for appreciating this universe here. Until you can't stand it anymore and it litterally pulls you far again. But I am enjoying seeing my friends, and looking at normal things here like at great luxury... sometimes on the other hand you look at other's luxury, you listen to other's fears and you surprise yourself not even getting upset anymore. It makes you almost smile. Don't know how long this feeling will last. Wish could keep it alive. It's exactly this wich makes it unpossible for me to settle in one specific place. I need to be on a sort of move constantly. And hope this job of mine... wich I decide to keep on persisting with... will give me this possibility. It seems allready mid april I'll be on a plane for a very long flight!! I am so happy. But since it's an assignment I am not allowed to wright about.

STUCK (03.03.12)

© Reto Albertalli / phovea

By now I thought I would be sitting at the Pub back home, proudly sipping a fresh Guinness and listening to some heavy rock. My mom would have picked me up from the airport, happy his son is back home, she would have been preparing great stuff for dinner and my dad would have found a good bottle of local red wine. Only then I would have gone home to my place in Geneva. Well all this images had to be postponed, as at the airport some angry uniformed men teared my ticket in two halfs, after discovering my visa is expired. I frankly believed that I would have to pay a fine for every day. But that sounded to them more as bribery. So once surrounded by more and more angry cops I choose to back down to the check-in aera,  hoping getting my backpack back, called the cab and returned to the centre. Watching out of the car's window. Everything looked hostile to me. Barbed wires, security walls, burkas, weapons, mud, dirt... grey. In the morning I was out at the bazar with a guy from the centre. It was strangely te first time I was out so much walking in the middle of the crowd, in one same place. I took pictures like knowing not coming back very soon. My friend had my digital cam and I hoped he could record some movie sequences of me, as a document. Well we must have looked strange because we got stopped several times by the police and once even by some secret civilians. Not fun at all when you know your visa expired, you have a plane to catch later, and little courious crowds surround you more and more. I can feel a change since the world known accident. It's more of a public thing. Each person is obviously nice and kind, but you can feel the potential of the crowd. At least I did. We know the mind can trick us easily in dark thoughts. And if you feel fear, well you are doomed. So sitting there in the cab back from the airport, I was forcing myself to get back to the original confidence and loving everything like it is. Once back at the centre everyone was sorry but happy to see me. They had a huge dancing party as the winter program is over. So I found myself dancing in the middle of clapping and shouting kids and the world couldn't have been betther. Another great adventure was then going to the passport office. Wich is fortunately not far from where I stay. There was an incredible crowd. Security guys pushing through it like moving sheeps. A loudspeaker shouting something from a green police pick-up. I wanted to cry. But convinced the translating guy with me, to try and ask. So we could move on. We were checked. I wasn't allowed to take pictures and of course the light was perfect and the scenes awesome. Lines and lines of watiting people, in the mud, between broken walls, squeezed one againts the other. Again the feeling I would never leave the country. But again asked and moved on to an office with only few foreigners. A guy in uniform sitting at a desk. Says ok, bring this this and this and we get you a 6 day visa for leaving. Back to centre. Then back to office. Ok now you need this and this. You pay 20 dollars and that's it. Want to give him cash. Says no to bank. Fortunately here at the centre they decided to send an experienced person paying for me. But since I should bring passport in the morning to get it back in the evening it's way to late and I'll "loose" another day. But it's ok unless I can go home. Wrote all this to a very good friend knowing Afghanistan way to well. He answered I'm an Idiot. You are in a country at war and expect to leave with an expired visa and even try to bribe officers. Weeeell... this are nice stories to tell at the pub, sipping a fresh Guinness very soon. No? I would be lying if I didn't admit feeling strange before falling asleep, alone with my thoughts, the window glasses trembling briefly as two helicopters fly low over us. But truly I feel in super security and very confident!


© Reto Albertalli / phovea

I saw her coming from far. I was on a bridge letting my young students take pictures of the Kabul River. She saw us too, visibly perturbed by the cameras, and wanted to change sidewalk. But it mustn't be easy walking on ice, carrying a child and not seeing much from under that burka. People here don't want you to take photos of women. And I was surrounded by scarfed men I was portraying. I knew her coming and got competely focused. Pointed my camera in her direction from the height of my hips. Positioned myself in space trying to imagine the trajectory, the distance... never looking at her, and shot. Now the outcome is not exactyl how I would have done watching through the viewfinder. And that makes the image a stranger to me. As someone else took her. I look at this and I am impressed by this kind of evel sculpture, kind of floating Dark Vader... hiding nothing else than a mother carrying her child in a cold winter day. It makes me think. I wish I could have a better access to people's lives, for images about the gap between private and public here...

FAITH (17.02.12)

©Reto Albertalli/phovea 2012

Some really nice messages reached me, through and thanks to the strange universe of digital communication. On this blog, e-mailed, per skype and via shortmsg. Virtual head-up s, who do make a difference. Makes you feel alone, still, but never lonely. And you start building up some faith. Again. You desperately want to believe. Beyond religions (...). And as nothing seems to come: you know it's time to give. Stop thinking too much and just give. The rest will come by itself, I believe.


During photoschool I used to read a lot of Bukowsky's (of course). My days were interesting and I couldn't wait to live a photographer's life. A lot of things he wrote marked me at the time (of course). One was that we spend the most part of our life waiting. And waiting. All I didn't want was a waiting life. I wanted to be constantly outside, constantly stimulated. My brain sometimes seems to function like an editing program, like photoshop bridge. He chooses the good frames, changes it sequence and what a great story we can get! Or not. Today I have been so positively surprised discovering this blog has a fallower I don't personally know, form Hungary!! She wrote a comment for the first time telling fallowing retangolo since some years. Wow!! This made me visit my own blog and going back reading my own thoughts. Well that looks like a great time I've had 'til now! With it's ups and downs but constantly going for something. I think I am in the midst of another (boring) crisis. Right here in Kabul. Afghanistan is one of the names who impressed me most. I used t think of the day I will be there as life-changing. I fixed it in my thoughts as others fix goals to reach, like wealth, love etc... and I right now feel that it is so stupid. Pretty unspecific. You just got to get yourself a ticket to kabul. Step out of the plane and here you are. Or not? Am I not seeing the incredible chance anymore of having been that privileged to be here in november with the international red cross, of beeing here now in a centre working with kids and still having friends at the icrc inviting me for drinks and shower? The first time I have seen a woman in burka at the airport, and that's no joke (unfortunately haha) I felt like somebody could, in front of it's superstar. Today I don't see any exotic in it anymore. Wich is a great thing. The best of things, in fact. With the result that I am longing for next steps, setting some new and strange goals for my photography... Phisically suffering of it. Is that normal? Is this passion or just paranoia? How come that everything I achieve gets down to normal? Am I never ever satisfied? Or am I a lazy nut waiting for things jsut to happen? Or I just don't have the nuts for going for the real thing? Or do I predict things that much that I know exactly not wanting to be traumatised for a couple of handshakes and some "likes" on facebook... if ever. Or am I asking myself the wrong questions? For the first time I'm wondering if I shouldn't get myself a real job. Photography is a dying profession. It seems in the next days a swiss mag I have contact with, is sending a journalist. But taking the pics herself. Beside of this being a reflection of our times... I am here and all I am deeply longing for is an assignment in a place like this one. Moving with the red cross jeeps and taking the pictures for a magazine. Probably underpayed. Kinda just for the glory. Is that an unrealtistic dream? Putting the bar to high? I now hope having put this thoughts on the blog will keep em out of my mind. And I want my doubts to be part of this fragile trace I leave with not much attention... I also want to remember all this time waiting, and waiting...

ICE COLD (10.02.12)

Brainstorming on subjects to treat with the kids is fun. We gave them the theme "water". Everyone came up with waterfalls and lakes, wich must be the photographs people here love hanging on their livingroom's wall. Only after came drinking, washing etc... When I asked what happens to water when it's really really cold they said the water gets cold. They knew that by boiling it becomes steam. But the snow all over Kabul? A gift of God.

OUTAWINDO (07.02.12)

When I am not inside the centre's walls, I'm driven through Kabul by taxi. No idea where I am. My eyes can't get enough and I would like to record it all, knowing how much gets forgotten. So I shoot randomly out of the window. The locals with me, keep repeating I can get problems, but since I'm dying to walk the streets I can't hold myself from clicking and clicking. Waiting to get into a subject.
Yesterday we visited very shortly a refugee camp. The conditions with the cold temperatures are worse than they allready are. It's tough seeing this kids bearfeet in the snow, walking to get frozen water to bring back to the tents. It's the consequences of this war. And it's hard to take. I couldn't help but to fix it on camera as good as possible. Nothing but "deju-vu" clichés. Wich makes it even sader. I sent a selection out in the evening hoping that by publishing I could "DO" (...) something. But of course I didn't even get answers to our mails. Today we drove around demanding for permissions for a project I'd like to get done wtih my students. Can't wait to be out again.