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During her more than eight years in Afghanistan, the photographer, who was born in Iran and emigrated to Canada as a teenager, has always centred her work around the living conditions of women and girls. Hayeri seeks to find alternative images of people’s daily lives – ones that draw attention to the strength and dignity of the individual. The multi-award-winning photographer has taken pictures in prisons and schools, and has been in touch with women who stand up for Human Rights and Women’s Rights, and are engaged in social issues. Within a few days in the summer of 2021, Afghanistan was catapulted back in time 20 years. Everything that had been achieved in the areas of women's and minority rights, education and freedom of expression, was lost. Hayeri’s images are more important than ever and have lost none of their significance, even if media interest is currently neglecting the situation in Afghanistan.

LFI: What has changed for you, personally, since last summer?

Kiana Hayeri: The biggest change has been in my personal life – losing friends from my social circle and daily life. The rhythm of our work has changed, as well. We don’t do as much breaking news as before. The war and violence has come to an end; however, dealing with the Islamic Emirate takes up our time and energy; and most people are also terrified to speak up. A blanket of oppression is suffocating everyone.

What hopes do you have for Afghanistan? Or how pessimistic are you about the future?

I wish I could be more optimistic about the future of Afghanistan; but, with every new ruling the Islamic Emirates make, part of that hope vanishes. It’s very difficult for most of us to envision anything positive coming out of this change of power.

The photographs were taken between 2018 and 2021. Have any of the images been published before?

Yes, of course. These are photos shot on different assignments for different publications. But they have never appeared together as one coherent body of work.

Which images from the LOBA series are particularly important to you?

I think that, when narrowing down a huge body of work produced over 4 years to 20 images, almost every frame is special. But for me, the photo of Hafiza, particularly, feels special and symbolic. I feel that Hafiza, a 70-year-old mother whose four sons became enemies of each other, and whose open wound is believed to be caused by grief, stands for what Afghanistan has gone through in the last 40 years; and where it is today. It’s a country with open wounds that is struggling to heal.

Have you already thought about what you will do with the prize money?

I'm in the midst of designing and publishing a photo book, which is specifically about the work I created inside Herat Prison, and with which I also won the Robert Capa Gold Medal last year: it’s a body of work that's very close to my heart, and it took on a different meaning after the Taliban took over the country and, in my opinion, put women into a larger prison called Afghanistan.

All the images of the LOBA series and further information can be found on the LOBA webpage.

The LOBA catalogue 2022 also contains all the images and an interview with the photographer. The winners and all shortlisted candidates of LOBA 2022 will be presented in issue 8/2022 of the LFI magazine.

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