I spent the first fifteen months in post-Taliban (until their resurgence) Afghanistan working
for a humanitarian aid agency in Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan. It was a remarkable
experience, as I was fortunate enough to travel farther afield on surveys and more extensively
around the country than most of the other foreigners there. It became home in a way and I still
remember fondly the people and places we visited. I took over a thousand photographs during
my travels on a variety of topics and would like to present some of them here, as it was a labor
Afghanistan is a beautiful, complex country at the crossroads of history, with wonderful
people despite the well-documented problems. I tried to take some photos of normal life and
people enjoying themselves at times instead of solely the war damage and suffering so common
in the mainstream media, who often did not venture outside of Kabul. There is suffering, and
countries must work not to abandon the promises we made, but believe it or not people there do
get through life with some of the same joys, difficulties, and family celebrations that we all have,
in spite of the hardships most of us do not understand. How well you are doing often has to do
with who you are, where you are, and in which time period. Many localized coping strategies
had developed, however they are under strain now.
Feedback on the photos and this site are most welcome. All photos and writings are
copyrighted by myself, but written permission may be obtained for educational use or other
purposes if they are not exploited for profit. I have allowed books or magazines to use some
photos in their publications for a small fee. If you are a rich celebrity or socialite that has found
themselves here but do not know how to contribute, my colleagues in the humanitarian field
here in Washington, D.C. can help link you with the right programs that have gaps in funding
and to use the money towards maximum effect and impacts for disaster victims, rather than just
writing a check and hoping for the best. No funds would go through me. For guidelines on
better aid, you can visit www.cidi.org
My contact info is:
Additionally, I have also included my journal writings from that time as a link above. It is a
very irreverent take on the humanitarian situation there in the early days of the war and has a
sense of immediacy, as many daily entries were written right in the middle of it all. It can give
some insights on various issues you will not find in other publications.
John Patrick Patten
The following links may prove useful as well to view other photos:
I went back to Afghanistan and was in Kandahar from September 2004 to September 2006.
I was with the PRT program and later at KAF working on civ-mil integration and planning
platforms. I've been back several times since as a trainer, but do not anticipate going back now.
I currently work on Interagency issues for the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance
(OFDA). Hopefully I'll find some time to post more photos and writings from my time in
Kandahar, which was a much different experience working with our government and military.
Including training missions I have spent nearly four years in total in Afghanistan.
Thank you to all those that have written in the past for your support, suggestions and
Last Updated: February 24, 2013 from Washington, D.C.