Among the many humanitarian problems facing war-torn Afghanistan is the impact that the conflict there has had on the country’s schoolchildren; many poor and displaced families have been forced to take their children out of school, signalling major problems for Afghanistan’s workforce in the years to come. Skateistan, set up by Australian skate fan Oliver Percovich, is an NGO (now operating in several countries) that coaxes kids back to school by teaching them to skateboard, and it was while documenting the initiative that British photographer Jessica Fulford-Dobson took the shot that was to win second place in the 2014 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize.
Skate Girl is just one image in an amazing series that shows the bravery, resilience and indomitable fun-loving spirit of the schoolgirls in the face of terrible living conditions and personal tragedy. Fulford-Dobson joined up with the Skateistan project in 2012, travelling to Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif to see for herself how the seemingly incongruous activity brought the girls to life. Often dwarfed by their boards, the youngsters — some aged just six or seven years old — practice at an indoor skate park dressed in their traditional clothes, with the addition of a few bits of safety gear. The visual collision of East and West is a one of the many thought-provoking aspects to the series, which is being exhibited at Saatchi Gallery, London, in partnership with Afghan telecoms firm Roshan. Skate Girls of Kabul runs from 15 to 28 April. The photographic series is also being published in book form by Morland Tate.