General view Musjid and graves. Chardeh Valley in distance.
Photographer: Burke, John
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph showing the small Masjid-i-Bala Chauk mosque and a Muslim cemetery near Kabul in Afghanistan, with the Chardeh Valley in the background, taken by John Burke, c. 1879-80. The Chardeh Valley is roughly twelve miles from east to west and eight miles north to south; it is surrounded on all sides by mountains and hills. It lies due west of Kabul and is separated from the city by the Asmai and Sher Darwaza heights; the Deh Mazang gorge connects the plains with Kabul. British forces aimed to dominate this area during the Second Afghan War (1878-80) as the valley occupied a strategically important position linking Kabul with India.
The photograph is part of a series of images forming the Afghan War albums which provided a visual document of the country and resulted in Burke achieving renown as the first significant photographer of Afghanistan and its people. The British became involved in Afghanistan, trying to create a buffer state and protect their Indian empire in the face of Russian expansion in Central Asia. The Anglo-Russian territorial rivalry created what came to be known as the Great Game between the powers. In 1878 Burke accompanied British forces into Afghanistan, despite being rejected for the role of official photographer. He financed his trip by advance sales of his photographs 'illustrating the advance from Attock to Jellalabad'. In his two-year expedition in Afghanistan during the Second Afghan War, Burke became the photographer of the region where the strategies of the Great Game were played out. In a latter phase of the war, from October 1879 to the summer of 1880, British troops (the Kabul Field Force) under General Roberts occupied Kabul. Burke stayed here for too for many months, photographing the city and its inhabitants.