Beginning at puberty, many Afghan women spend much of their lives within the high walls of their compounds and are seldom permitted to venture forth. This is particularly true of women in Kandahar, capital of southern Afghanistan, with its deeply conservative culture. For many women here little has changed since the fall of the Taliban ten years ago. Within their confinement, these women nevertheless have rich and complex lives. This is a glimpse of life behind their walls, which has rarely been seen in the West.
Paula Lerner's passion for photographing people has taken her from the Amazon to Afghanistan. Since 1985 she has been commissioned by a wide variety of national and international clients in addition to pursuing her own projects. Her editorial roster includes Smithsonian, People, Time, Newsweek, Business Week, plus a host of European and Asian magazines. Among her corporate and advertising clients are Agfa, Bright Horizons, Harvard, MIT, Children's Hospital Boston, and The Commonwealth Fund. Her personal work has been shown in venues throughout the northeast United States and has been part of national traveling exhibits. Paula photographs people in all walks of life, and her assignments range from stories on cancer patients, factory workers, and corporate executives to profiles of eminent scientists, authors, and performing artists. Her images have been selected multiple times for publication in the juried annuals of Communication Arts and American Photography. Her photo essay "A Widow on Welfare: An Untold Story," won First Place for Issue Reporting in the prestigious 55th Pictures of the Year competition. More recently, Paula collaborated with Deb Murphy on the book, "Why We Walk: The Inspirational Journey Toward a Cure for Breast Cancer," which tells the poignant and personal stories of some of the hundreds of thousands of people who participate in breast cancer fundraising walks each year. The book was published by Rutledge Hill Press in the fall of 2005. Another current project involves documenting the work of the Business Council for Peace (a.k.a. Bpeace), an organization made up of vibrant businesswomen and men who help women in war torn regions set up self-sustaining businesses to help foster peace at a grassroots level. Since 2005 Paula has traveled to Afghanistan multiple times to cover their ongoing programs. A multimedia feature of this body of work, together with audio interviews, was published on The Washington Post web site in November of 2006. She is currently at work on a long term project about women in Kandahar. Paula earned a BA in Philosophy from Harvard in 1984. She lives near Boston with her husband and their two daughters. Paula's stock photography is represented by Aurora & Quanta Productions, an international photo agency in Portland, Maine. In her rare spare moments she can be found on cliff faces indulging an addiction to rock climbing.