The Marai Photo Award 2020 Winners

The winner

Naim Nadir

Title: The Afghan Spirit

© Naim Nadir

In this collection of portraits I want to promote national unity by covering all the main ethnic groups that call Afghanistan their home. Using a very shallow depth of field, I have tried to isolate the subjects' eyes, letting their gaze and expression tell their stories. These photos show that no matter where in Afghanistan we come from and what ethnic group we belong to, we all share the same struggles and hopes as a nation.

2nd Prize

Mohammad Ismail

Title: Kabul's Bird Market

© Mohammad Ismail

For some Afghans weighed down by decades of war and struggle, a little comfort and distraction can be found in the company of birds. The war seems a long way off in the Ka Faroshi bird market in the heart of Kabul's old city. A narrow lane with a few alleys off it, packed with small, mud-walled shops festooned with bird cages. Customers, most of them men, but some blue burqa-clad women too, squeeze down the crowded street to inspect birds on display, haggle with shopkeepers and buy seeds and other supplies. Fighting cocks and partridges squawk in bell-shaped wicker cages, while finches, larks and canaries of all varieties hop in cages, and pigeons coo in small aviaries made of wire. In Afghanistan, it's a hobby to keep birds or fighting cocks. Most of the birds are caught in the wild or imported from neighboring countries. The most expensive ones can fetch up to 1 million afghanis ($14,000). Traders believe birds help relieve people of the stress of living in the Afghan capital.

3rd Prize

Mohammad Aref Karimi

Title: Hope for Life in Wartime

© Mohammad Aref Karimi

Life has its own difficulties everywhere, and the decades of war in Afghanistan have been the most challenging struggle for its people as they go about their day-to-day life. But having hope for a good life and finding moments of joy has never left the people of Afghanistan, despite the difficulties of conflict, insecurity and poverty. With a camera lens, every scene in life becomes a remarkable moment. If we focus on negative aspects, they will grow and become visible and if we concentrate on positive angles, these will stand out. As a photojournalist, I have tried to reflect the hope and happiness of life despite all the problems Afghans are facing. I want to show the other face of life in Afghanistan, which has hardly been covered in the mass media.