When Australian Oliver Percovich took to the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan with his skateboard, he was immediately surrounded by a crowd of curious children. These youth often spend their days begging, working on the streets, and selling goods to make a living for their low-income families, many of whom cannot afford an education for their kids. On that historic day in 2007, as Percovich eagerly demonstrated how to maneuver a skateboard, he was inspired to change the lives of children that live in war-torn countries.
What began as a heartfelt project on the streets of Kabul has turned into an award-winning organization known as Skateistan, spreading to both Cambodia and South Africa. The organization’s main goal is to use skateboarding to empower young people, providing a foundation for change and educational opportunities.
About 45% of the children that make up Skateistan are young women who are forbidden to ride bicycles and who must wear restrictive clothing. For these girls, this skateboarding initiative not only gives them the chance to go to school, it also allows them to feel a sense of freedom, strength, and that they have a safe haven away from the dangers that they face on a daily basis. Even with their confining clothes, they are able to successfully skateboard, which would explain why this activity is becoming the nation’s #1 sport for women.
When British photographer Jessica Fulford-Dobson heard about this inspiring project, she set her sights on photographing the liberated girls. Although it took time for the motivated photographer to gain access to the Skateistan facilities, she ultimately gained Percovich’s trust and was able to respectfully capture the youngsters in action.
Without using artificial lighting, the discreet Fulford-Dobson creates thought-provoking images that encapsulate a feeling of independence and joy. Just by looking at the photographs, it becomes clear that Skateistan has made a difference, creating spirit and hope in an unexpected place.