Generation AK - Afghanistan and the Perils of Freedom, 1993-2008, is a retrospective selection of images of the country where Dupont has covered everything from civil war and the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s, to the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom and the ongoing war on terrorism. Dupont completed much of this work on self-funded trips and as part of one of the last small independent photographic agencies, Contact Press Images, of which he has been a member since 1997. On his most recent trip, in April 2008, he survived a suicide bombing while traveling with an opium poppy eradication team in Kabul.


Dupont’s sustained documentation of the conflict in Afghanistan, even when it was not headline news and in an age defined by its short attention span, lends both force and cohesion to his work. His extended focus on the country has resulted in a series of images that vividly depict how life continues during perpetual war (particularly among the people of the Northern Alliance) as well as single images that have helped to define and change the nature of that war.

Since 2001 and the initial, U.S.-led defeat of the Taliban, Dupont has equally concentrated on the effects of the rampant drug trafficking that has developed in Afghanistan which currently supplies more than 90 percent of the world’s opium. As recent news coverage of this crisis has shown, the heroin epidemic is intimately connected to the continuing conflict, as well as to a resurgent Taliban and terrorism in general.

Dupont’s photographs, part of a larger multimedia project for which he was awarded the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanitarian Photography in 2007, detail the harrowing effects of life in a narcotic state from the addict’s point of view. Like Dupont’s other work, this project reveals the relative nature of freedom and its accompanying risks in a liberated Afghanistan. The Afghanistan photographs are not easy pictures. They are sometimes painful. They pose tough questions without offering simple answers. Like the best photojournalism, they open our eyes through their unblinking honesty. As Sayed Reza (the 23-year-old heroin addict and protagonist of Dupont and Jacques Menasche’s film, Stoned in Kabul) says, “This is the truth. It is not a lie.” The film follows Reza and his brother, Hussein, in their attempt to be admitted into a drug rehabilitation program, which is located in a mental hospital. Reza, talking to his brother about the nature of the film, explains, “It is not time for stories.”

Stephen C. Pinson
The Robert B. Menschel Curator of Photography,
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs

Stephen Dupont

Follow on
See full archive