The Hollings Center supported a photography competition and two exhibitions held in Lahore, Pakistan and Kabul, Afghanistan, entitled Amazing Pakistan : Amazing Afghanistan, through a grant received by the United States Embassy Kabul. The project aimed to build trust, mutual respect, and to promote commonalities between Pakistan and Afghanistan through the medium of photography. Photographers and photojournalists from both countries were invited to submit photos related to cultural heritage, historical monuments, social activities, traditional dances, music, nature and sports activities. The competition and exhibitions were organized by The Media Foundation in Pakistan and NAI Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan in October 2017.
The Amazing Pakistan, Amazing Afghanistan project was an outcome of an Afghanistan-Pakistan Partnership Summit that the Hollings Center organized in January 2017 with the support of the U.S. Embassy Kabul. The Summit brought together 26 participants from Afghanistan and Pakistan to promote regional integration by building professional networks between the two countries. During the Summit, participants had the opportunity to work together to create project ideas that would bring the two countries together through common areas of interest. The Amazing Pakistan, Amazing Afghanistan project grew out of these discussions.
By the submission deadline on September 30, 2017, 110 photographers from Pakistan and 51 from Afghanistan submitted 805 photos. A panel of three expert judges evaluated the photos on technical elements and subject matter. The panel shortlisted 25 photos from each country to form a 50-photo exhibition to be held in Lahore and Kabul. Top three photos were selected from each country out of the 50 shortlisted photos. Photographers of the top three winning photos from each country all received a prize of camera equipment while the other shortlisted candidates received a photographer’s bag and a certificate of participation.
The first award ceremony and exhibition was held in Lahore, Pakistan on October 23, 2017 at the Shakir Ali Museum. U.S. Consul General Lahore Elizabeth Kennedy Trudeau formally opened the exhibition. The second award ceremony and exhibition was held in Kabul, Afghanistan on October 30, 2017 at the Malika Surraya Palace, Bagh-e-Babur. Both exhibitions included panel discussions with prominent speakers on the role arts, especially photography, can play in building trust and creating an environment that promotes peace and tolerance.
The Amazing Pakistan, Amazing Afghanistan project was a collaborative effort to use photography to build bridges between two countries with a long-shared history. Photographers from all corners of Afghanistan and Pakistan participated in the competition. To view the full shortlisted photos from each country please visit http://amazingafpak.com. The Hollings Center, together with the organizing partners, hopes to hold exhibitions in other cities in the near future.