Here Ivan captures tattoo artist Soraya, at work in one of her many temporary studios in Kabul, Afghanistan. Soraya became the first female tattoo artist in Afghanistan who practices modern tattooing (as opposed to khaal which had been practiced for hundreds of years). Soraya began tattooing in Kabul in 2018, having trained in Iran and Turkey. Her story reflect the tumultuous history of the region. Born in Iran in the 1990, a result of her Afghani parents escaping Afghanistan’s civil war, she returned with her parents to Kabul in 2002 following the US invasion. Under the US occupation Soraya, like many young Afghanis, existed in the middle of an intense culture clash between the deeply conservative Afghani society of the past and the freedoms of western society.
Due to harassments and safety concerns, including being denounced on television by a cleric, Soraya constantly moved her tattoo shop, relying on social media to meet and coordinate with clients, eventually opening a beauty shop with her two sisters.
Ivan Flores, Finishing Touches, 2021. Digital Photograph. ©Ivan Flores. All rights reserved.
Kabul, Afghanistan: Marina smiles as she watches Soraya put the finishing touches on her tattoo.