Massimo Berruti

Massimo Berruti, an Italian photographer based in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, has, since 2008, been working on a vast documentary covering the Pakistanis' fight for freedom, after an initial reportage devoted to the elections.

Member of the VU' agency since 2007, this committed photographer has shown bravery and patience in living within a Pakistani community caught up in extreme violence of a political, religious, ethical and clan-like nature. Summary executions, shoot-outs and targeted assassinations are daily affairs in some towns. In 2011, his "Bloodbaths in Karachi (planned murders)" reportage came second in the World Press awards and third in the Picture of the Year International awards, after receiving a prize for excellence in 2010. In 2009, his work received the Young Reporter's Prize at the Visa Pour l'Image Festival.

Italian. Born in 1979 in Rome. Lives and works in Islamabad, Pakistan. Website


Chapelle des Beaux-arts de Paris
14 rue de Bonaparte, 75006 Paris
4 November - 3 December 2011
Open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 am to 7 pm
The exhibition will also be open on Sunday 6 November from 3 am to 7 pm
Free admission

"Lashkars, milices civiles pachtounes face aux talibans"

is published by Actes Sud

Bilingual publication in English/French


It was chaired by Alain Genestar, director of Polka Magazine and Polka Galerie and comprised:

  • Christian Caujolle, journalist, curator and founder of VU agency and gallery.
  • Clément Chéroux, curator at the Centre Georges Pompidou.
  • Olivier Laban-Mattei, independent photojournalist.
  • Susan Meiselas, photographer, Magnum agency.
  • Kathy Ryan, director of photography at the New York Times Magazine.
  • Olivier Weber, author, diplomat and ambassador at large for human rights.
  • Kai Wiedenhöfer, German photographer, 2009 Carmignac Gestion prizewinner.
Mahnbanr (Qilagai), near the Dir border, Swat Valley, Pakistan, March 2011 (1)
Pakistan, Swat Valley, Mahnbanr (Qilagai), near the Dir border, March 2011


The theme proposed to the photographers for this second edition was the Pachtounistan, a strategic border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Massimo Berruti had proposed to do a long-term assignment in the Swat valley in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtonkhawa, to keep up with the daily life of the Lashhars, which are civilian militia historically formed of tribal warriors, who place themselves in the front line facing the Taliban threat to defend their own people, with the support of the Pakistani army. The Lashkars contribute to pacify and to ensure the security of the zone in view of the bomb attacks and of the risk of infiltration of the insurgents.

In 2007, the Swat valley, at the northern border of Pakistan, fell into the hands of the Taliban before returning under the control of the Pakistani army after the offensive carried out in 2009 against the fundamentalist insurgents (a topic that Massimo Berruti had then covered). These territories close to the tribal zones are today in the spotlight of the media with the death of Osama bin Laden. At the epicentre of omnipresent world terrorism, these zones remain at the forefront of a conflict which goes widely beyond the issues of the region.

Massimo Berruti has carried out this report in Pachtounistan from January to the beginning of April 2011.

Bara Bandi (2)
Pakistan, Swat Valley, Bara Bandi
Malam Jabba (3)
Pakistan, Swat Valley, Malam Jabba
Imam Dherai (4)
Pakistan, Swat Valley, Imam Dherai

(1) Mahnbanr (Qilagai), near the Dir border, Swat Valley, Pakistan, March 2011

SaidBachà, Lashkar elder from Mahnbanr, returning home with armed Lashkar members after attending a Grand Jirga in Tehsil Kabal. Leaders like SaidBachà are threatened by the Taliban who accuse them of playing a key role in operations intended to drive them out of the Swat Valley.

(2) Bara Bandai, Swat Valley, Pakistan, November 2010

Lashkar members prepare for the “Pehra” (night patrol) in the “Hujra” of a tribe elder, Ahmed Khan, whose photo is set on the wall. In the small photo, he is standing with his two sons who live in the United Kingdom. Three of his bodyguards and one of his nephews were killed by militia in 2008 during fighting against the Taliban regime in the Swat Valley before the successful military operation in May 2009. In Pashtun culture, a Hujra is the place where tribal elders meet to discuss various issues and to maintain relations. Here, the elders sometimes hold meetings – also called “Jirga” – to resolve all kinds of disputes or develop future strategies.

(3) Malam Jabba, Swat Valley, Pakistan, January 2011

A young pashtoun boy wrapping his face in a shawl keeping warm standing on a roadside leaving to Malam Jabba.

(4) Imam Dherai, Swat Valley, Pakistan, March 2011

Some taliban militants wrote slogans in Pashto language with pieces of coal on the classroom in a destroyed school. Before the military operations, the taliban were living in the building in their stronghold in Swat Valley.

*These four photographs are part of the Carmignac Foundation collection.