Josephine Powell: Afghanistan and Central Asia
Regional Surveys

This collection houses examples of photographs taken by Josephine Powell, a self-taught photographer of architecture, art objects, landscapes, and people who worked primarily in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Powell received a degree in social work in 1945, but went on to become a photographer of antiquities in Rome. Her work turned toward ethnographic material (scenes of every day life and crafts produced in villages) when she moved to Istanbul in 1974. 

Powell traveled extensively throughout the region and photographed the places she saw. This collection contains images from Afghanistan and the adjacent Central Asian countries, taken between the 1950s and 1970s. Many of the buildings and places she photographed are remote and difficult to access, and others have changed completely since the time she visited. The photographs are especially rich in decorative details and reveal the photographer's eye for the sculptural form of architecture. Her documentation of the surrounding land- and city-scapes - and the hustle and bustle of daily life within them - are equally valuable as documentation of cultural heritage.

The images featured here are all housed in the Josephine Powell Archive at Harvard Fine Arts Library. Read more about these photographic collections here.

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