The Last Rocker of Mazar

Miles Davis and a smelly bukhari (Afghan fuel heater) are warming up my mood and room. Earlier in the afternoon, I got the very stupid idea of looking at readers’s comments on a Swiss newspaper’s website. Reading so many bitter people expressing their frustration on any single subject they could, without even knowing what they are talking about, raised a few questions in my mind. Is bashing everyone and everything around them making them feel better? Why are they considering themselves as “being a 100% Swiss” and why would it matter? “Hell is other people” wrote Sartre…

But who cares… I finally got the chance to take a portrait I was initially supposed to take a year ago 🙂
20 December 2014: Curzio, Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan.

Redefining Priorities

After more than a year in the field with a technically limited camera (poor or no AF, limited ISO, poor ergonomic), I bought last Summer a Fuji X-T1 with two lenses. It is not the first time that I’m trying to have a smaller camera, easier to carry than my usual Canon 5D and lenses (filing a backpack on their own). I bought a few compact cameras in the past but never really felt confortable with them and finally always preferred to work with my Canon. However, 18 months ago, the security situation in the places where I was working and the difficulty to travel with that heavy backpack forced me to change my plans and to use for some time a camera, limited to max 800 or 1600 ISO, with a pathetic AF system but great picture quality.

While it restricted the number or kind of shots I could take (e.g. low light portrait), it surprisingly also improved my way of shooting. It forced me to better prepare my shoots, to care less about sharpness and more about content. And because I did not have enough shutter speed at low light, I was then forced to improve my slow shutter speed skills, learning something new.

Since I bought a Fuji X-T1, I received several times the same questions “Is it better than Canon?” “Don’t you miss a full frame sensor”? No, it is not as good as Canon (slower auto-focus, less ergonomic). But I can carry it with me more easily and adapt my pictures to its limitation. Like too many before me, I certainly wasted way too much time in the past focusing on equipment or picture’s sharpness, rather than trying to improve my pictures and my eye.

I had the pleasure to talk lately with another enthusiastic photographer about camera, photography in general and how photography coule make us become more attentive of things around us. A particular light, some expressions or any small details, making our life a bit different. And that’s certainly what matters to me. Photographing those instants, those details that I like; or capturing some faces or moments I would like to keep for me.

Maybe my camera can not shoot all the things another one could (e.g. challenging sport shots). But at least, I can have it with me in any bag and take the kind of shots I really like. OlivierChassot-Blog-MAZ-Buzkashi-0884

21 November 2014: A bread vendor during a buzkashi match in Mazar-e-Sharif, Northern Afghanistan.

Back on his Feet

Taking pictures during an official visit has never been my favorite activities in photography. The usual same handshaking, the same discussion, the same attitudes and the same problems to manage (remain discrete, try to fit as many VIP as possible in the frame, avoid people looking at me, etc…). Not unpleasant, but usually not the most exciting neither. Except when side moments give you some interesting opportunities…


22 November 2014: A young patient at the ICRC orthocenter in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan.

For my first weekend in months without setting a foot in my office, it actually feels weird, but nice, to end up processing two big batches of pictures again.


With the cold making a comeback in Afghanistan, the new Buzkashi season started 2 weeks ago in Mazar-e-Sharif. Rather brutal (more than during my last visit), it remains an incredible experience.

After almost a year in Afghanistan, I sometimes still find difficult to realize that I am really working and living here. I still remember reading the book “The Photographer” and being fascinated by the pictures of the late Didier Lefèvre. This country was supposed to stay in my imagination, a fantasy in my traveler’s mind. Realizing that I went today to a Buszkashi match, like others go to a cinema, is just an additional reminder of how my life has changed. For the better and for the rest… 🙂


21 November 2014: A buzkashi match in Mazar-e-Sharif, Northern Afghanistan.


21 November 2014: An Afghan rider during Buzkashi match in Mazar-e-Sharif, Northern Afghanistan.

Return to Forrest

Playing tennis table alone doesn’t exactly sound like fun, even if you are stuck in a compound, with nobody else to play against. That was until I discovered that ping pong robot existed. Forrest Gump would have been amazingly jealous (and would have lost) 🙂

01 October 2014: Piotr, ICRC staff and passionated table tennis player. Kabul, Afghanistan

Dreams of Home

While summer is slowly coming to an end and my first thoughts on my next mission starting to appear, I suddenly wish I were in Southeast Asia, Home, eating street food and shooting portraits. Quietly, before going back to another crazy mission. Soon… inch’allah.

24 September 2014: On the road between Taloqan and Fayzabad, Northeastern Afghanistan.

26 September 2014: Afghans during Maghrib prayer in Fayzabad, Northeastern Afghanistan.

Humans of Afghanistan

Driving about 20km to visit an old city and listening to a guy speaking about the challenges faced when renovating the local mosque is rarely a weekend highlight. But when it happens in Afghanistan, visiting Balkh city and the Masjid Sabz (Green Mosque) becomes a fantastic adventure. Another reminder that, without the war, Afghanistan could be a great place for tourism and trekking.

16 August 2014: Young Afghan in Balkh city, Northern Afghanistan.

P.S: And yes, I’m the happy (so far) owner of a Fuji x-t1 with a 23mm 1.4. Let’s see what I can do with it…


Fuji X-T1 and a lovely 23mm lens or more money on my bank account. Fuji X-T1 and a lovely 23mm lens or more money on my bank account. Fuji X-T1 and a lovely 23mm lens or more money on my bank account…
12 July 2014: Daniel, at D-4 of his end of mission, Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan.(unretouched).

Edit: To respond to the usual question asked lately, no, this picture was not photoshopped. I never add / remove / modify elements in my pictures and only play with contrast/colors/exposure, when needed.