Tahmina Saleem

Kabul, Afghanistan

Tahmina is an award-winning freelance photographer with a masters degree in Visual Art from Kabul University, where she was taught by the Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Massoud Hossaini.

Her documentary-style photography expresses the lifestyle, achievements and challenges of women who succeeded in Afghan society, and she has participated in exhibitions exploring the elimination of violence against women and female empowerment.

“Being a woman photographer is a very big challenge in Afghanistan,” Tahmina says.

If men see you with a camera, they are shocked; they think ‘how can a woman be doing photography?’ It’s difficult but we do it for ourselves and we do not give up.”

Women by Women is celebrating the inspiring stories of women in the countries we work in – and the female photographers capturing those stories from behind the lens.

Learn about our work changing the lives of women and girls living in poverty, for good.

Rahiba shot by Tahmina for ActionAid's women's photography campaign

In colour, Rahiba shot by Tahmina for ActionAid's women's photography campaign

Rahiba shot by Tahmina for ActionAid's women's photography campaign

In colour, Rahiba shot by Tahmina for ActionAid's women's photography campaign

Rahiba is president of a fashion house in Kabul.

She seeks to pioneer a modern style of clothing, reviving the traditional embroidery associated with Afghanistan.

Dressmaking, shot by Tahmina for ActionAid's women's photography campaign

Some of the fabrics and designs of Rahiba's latest clothing range

Some of the fabrics and designs of Rahiba's latest clothing range

Rahiba heads up the team of 30+ employees at the Laman showroom in Taimani Square in north east Kabul.

Women are hired to do the intricate embroidery and some work from home. This flexibility is crucial for women from conservative families who may not be able to leave home to get to work each day.

Laman’s first fashion show was covered by international media, but sparked criticism in Afghanistan, with some people accusing Rahiba of 'westernising' their culture.

Rahiba avoided using Afghan women as models and instead involved women working at the American Embassy. Despite this, the Laman seamstresses still received threats and some refused to work for the brand again.

Rahiba portrait shot for ActionAid's women's photography campaign
Rahiba in her studio, shot for ActionAid's women's photography campaign
Lalma, a model, poses in Afghanistan for ActionAid's women's photography campaign

Lalma, a model, poses at a shoot at the Laman showroom

Lalma, a model, poses at a shoot at the Laman showroom

Rahiba showing dresses in her showroom, shot for ActionAid's women's photography campaign

Rahiba works in her showroom in Taimani square in north-east Kabul

Rahiba working, shot for ActionAid's women's photography campaign
Rahiba walks up stairs in her workshop, shot for ActionAid's women's photography campaign
Rahiba directs Fatimah, a photographer, shot for ActionAid's women's photography campaign

Rahiba directs Fatimah, a photographer, on a fashion shoot

Rahiba works in her showroom in Taimani square in north-east Kabul

Rahiba directs Fatimah, a photographer, on a fashion shoot

Shamsia shot by Tahmina for ActionAid's Women by Women campaign
Shamsia, a female graffiti artist in Afghanistan, shot for ActionAid's women's photography campaign

Shamsia is a street artist who sprays murals depicting powerful women on the walls of Kabul.

"When people see me outside doing graffiti, they say bad words, they curse and some call it a sin. People in Afghanistan are not against art, but against women doing activities.

"My paintings have a character. Since women have more restrictions than men in our society, I choose my character to be a woman.

"A woman with shut eyes and no mouth, with a deformed musical instrument which gives her the ability and confidence play her voice powerfully."

Shamsia's sketches for her wall art, shot for ActionAid's women's photography campaign

A sketch of Shamsia's latest wall art

Shamsia working on her graffiti, shot for ActionAid's women's photography campaign

Shamsia sprays her latest work on a wall in Serahi Alauddin, Kabul

Shamsia's sketches for her wall art, shot for ActionAid's women's photography campaign

A sketch of Shamsia's latest wall art

Shamsia working on her graffiti, shot for ActionAid's women's photography campaign

Shamsia sprays her latest work on a wall in Serahi Alauddin, Kabul

Shamsia at work in the street in Afghanistan, shot for ActionAid's women's photography campaign

"I believe there are many who forgot all the tragedy women face in Afghanistan, so I use my paintings to remind people.

"I want to highlight the matter, with paintings of women bigger than they are in reality, and in modern forms, shaped in happiness, movement, maybe stronger. I want people to view Afghan women differently."

Shamsia next to one of her paintings, shot for ActionAid's women's photography campaign
Fakhria, shot by Tahmina for ActionAid's Women by Women campaign

Fakhria does yoga, shot for ActionAid's women's photography campaign

Fakhria does yoga, shot for ActionAid's women's photography campaign

Fakhria Momtaz opened Momtaz Yoga Centre, Kabul’s first yoga studio in 2015.

Now, more than 50 women a day come to the centre – despite religious criticism.

Fakhria buys bread in Kabul, shot for ActionAid's women's photography campaign

Fakhria buys bread on her way home from work at her yoga centre in Karte Char, Kabul

Fakhria buys bread on her way home from work at her yoga centre in Karte Char, Kabul

Women practicing yoga in Kabul, shot for ActionAid's women's photography campaign
Women practicing yoga in Kabul, shot for ActionAid's women's photography campaign
Fakhria's mother at her home in Kabul, shot for ActionAid's women's photography campaign

Fakhria with her mother, Tahira, in her bedroom at home in Karte Char, Kabul.

Fakhria with her mother, Tahira, in her bedroom at home in Karte Char, Kabul.

The outdoors is very important to Fakhria’s practice of yoga, so she often takes her classes outside.

She believes her students "must immerse themselves in nature, and experience the changing seasons."

Women practice yoga on the mountain in Kabul, shot for ActionAid's women's photography campaign
Fakhria takes a yoga class up to the mountains at Shahrak-e Omid Sabz in Kabul

Fakhria takes a yoga class up to the mountains at Shahrak-e Omid Sabz in Kabul

Fakhria takes a yoga class up to the mountains at Shahrak-e Omid Sabz in Kabul