"She first caught my eye because she was wearing such a beautiful colour. She's just immaculate. From the way she has tied her headscarf so beautifully and so naturally, you see that she has an innate sense of grace. Her little hennaed hand rests gently - yet possessively - on the skateboard, and how small she seems beside it! I love her assurance: her firm, steady gaze. One feels a sense of depth in her eyes, even though she is just 7 years of age." Jessica Fulford-Dobson.
Photographer Jessica Fulford-Dobson will present her series of portraits, Skate Girls of Kabul, in a major new exhibition presented by Roshan from 15 to 28 April 2015.
Jessica Fulford-Dobson won 2nd prize in the 2014 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize with Skate Girl, 2014, just one of a series of works made on location in Kabul, where young girls from poor and displaced families were being taught to skateboard as a hook to get them back into full-time education. After just one year of attending the Back to School programme, the girl in the prize-winning portrait has passed her first three educational grades and is now enrolled in the national school system. She still attends Skateistan in her free time.
Wanting to capture the wonderful story of Afghan girls skateboarding, Jessica first approached Skateistan in 2012 to ask them if she could visit their site in Kabul.
Skateistan is an NGO founded in 2007 by Australian skate enthusiast Oliver Percovich. It now has over 60 staff in several countries. Percovich was enthusiastic about Jessica's idea, and agreed to give her access to the schools in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif.
The girls soon accepted Jessica's presence, especially as she worked simply, without artificial lighting, and on her own. Photographing with natural light limited the shoot locations within the relatively dark skate park, but this actually helped the children's natural personalities to shine through. Jessica says "I met so many impressive women and girls in Afghanistan: a teacher as tough and determined as any man; young Afghans in their early twenties who were volunteering at an orphanage and were passionate about being seen as strong and willing to fight for themselves, rather than as victims of circumstance; and girls who were being educated to be leaders in their communities and who were already thinking carefully about their own and their country's future. And of course there were the young skate girls, so fun to be around and so totally unspoilt. I feel lucky to have met them. I hope that this collection captures something of their spirit: their joy in life, their individuality and their community."