Panorama of Kabul from Asmai hill - showing Chardeh Valley on right to Sherpur [Cantonment] on left.
Photographer: Burke, John
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph with a panoramic view composed of three joined prints, looking down onto the city of Kabul in Afghanistan from the west, taken from the Asmai Heights by John Burke, 1879-80. Timur's Tomb is in the centre of the print and the Bala Hissar fortress is in the distance. Panoramas were difficult to achieve with precision and were high forms of the photographer's art. Burke took atleast nine of Kabul. They are all part of the series of images providing a visual document of the country which 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 (1878-80), Burke became the photographer of the region where the strategies of the Great Game were played out.
Kabul, which has a history of over 3000 years, occupies a strategically important position at the crossroads of major trade routes. In 1504 it was captured by Babar, the founder of the Mughal Empire, and was transformed into a thriving cultural city. Timur Shah of the Durrani dynasty (ruled 1773-1783) made it Afghanistan's capital city in 1776. It lies along the Kabul river at an elevation of 5900 feet in a triangular valley and is flanked by the steep Asmai and Sherdarwaza mountains, and commands the approaches to the Indian sub-continent via the Khyber Pass.