Kohistani Chiefs [?Kabul]
Photographer: Burke, John
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph, a formal group portrait of chieftains from Kohistan near the Peshawar border of the North West Frontier Province (now in Pakistan), taken in 1879-80, possibly in Kabul, Afghanistan, by John Burke. He accompanied the British army into Afghanistan in 1878 and worked steadily in the hostile environment of Afghanistan and the North West Frontier Province, capturing military and topographical scenes as well as the peoples of the country during the Second Afghan War (1878-80). Burke also photographed many darbars or meetings that took place between British combat leaders and Afghan chiefs which led to the uneasy peace treaties characteristic of the campaign. His two-year Afghan expedition produced a visual document which resulted in his achieving significance as the photographer of the region of the Great Game (concerning the Anglo-Russian territorial rivalry).
Kohistan (literally 'mountain country') was one of the most isolated parts of the North West Frontier, divided in two parts by the Indus river. Here, the ridges of the Karakoram, the Hindu Kush and the Himalayas met and here was an important part of the Silk Route. The tribes here lived off their livestock, engaging in transhumance (seasonal migration to alpine and subalpine heights with their animals).