After the Fall is a body of work by Stewart Weir documenting the fall of the Taliban when the city of Herat was taken over by the Northern Alliance. The images were taken almost 20 years ago, in 2002, shortly after the Twin Towers in the US fell on September 11th, 2001 and the so-called war on terror began in its current form. The event had an impact on most people’s lives, even if they weren’t in the towers themselves or hadn’t lost a loved one. If you’d taken a plane in the last 20 years chances are you’ve been affected — the 100ml liquid hand luggage limit and many other restrictions were imposed post — 9/11. On the other hand, for the people in Afghanistan, the ramifications were far more disruptive and life-changing.
As Weir was told by an interpreter on the day the Taliban suffered defeat nobody believed that they were gone for good. It felt a bit like sweeping your rubbish under the carpet — deliberately hiding the problem in plain sight. The commonly held belief was that the success of the West would only be temporary and ultimately it would not provide a solution to the problems of the region. The project documents the streets and outskirts of Herat where the Northern Alliance was in control. In the words of the photographer, “people smiled and played football, women were relaxed. Music and video once banned in the shops now reappeared as the areas surrounding Herat were cleared of unexploded munitions”.
We know all too well what happened next — in August 2021, following the botched exit of the US and its allies, the Taliban only needed a few days to return to power. The president of the country fled in disgrace and its capital fell. Women are now denied education and LGBT people are scrambling to escape, otherwise, they face the death penalty.
After the Fall, photographed in the classic grainy black-and-white 35mm style, reminds us that better times are possible. The photographs are close-up and raw, allowing us to get to the heart of the people of Afghanistan. They appear exhausted, yet somehow joyous, but they have ultimately been treated with respect and dignity by Weir, something that is unfortunately not too common in documentary photography nowadays. These people are victims of political decisions taken in Washington and London that are by and large out of their control. When we hear statistics of casualties and people suffering it’s hard to put a human face to the problem. This is exactly what this project does — it makes us stare grief and suffering right in the eye.
— foreword by Zak R. Dimitrov
Images taken 20 yrs ago in Herat (2002)and entitled After The Fall. The city of Herat had recently been taken over by the Northern Alliance and the Taliban had been defeated. I remember speaking to an interpreter about the fall of the Taliban and he was quite clear in his opinion that the Taliban would always ultimately return and the the success of the ‘West’ would always be temporary.
These are the streets and outskirts of Herat. The Northern Alliance is in control and what was left of the Taliban has melted away into the general population. People smiled, women relaxed and football played. Music dads and videos once banned reappeared into shop stores the areas surrounding Herat was cleared of unexploded munitions.
I am hoping to do a Crowdfunder for a book to be published with all proceeds going to an Afghan charity who help refugees.