Stefano Zardini started his photography studies in Milan at the Technical Institute of Photography, then moved to London where he specialized in portraits and reportages working for several professional Studios.In the early 1970s he started his career as free-lance photographer working for fashion magazines, such as Vogue and Harpers Bazar. He also worked for geographic magazines, and his panoramic photographs appeard on Airone, Bell'Italia, Bell'Europa, Atlante, Berge, Alp, AD-Architectural Digest, European Travel & Life, Ski, and others.
But soon his focus turned to photo-journalism. Assignments have taken him world wide, visiting and documenting life and conflict situations in 55 countries. Some of his reportages on war or civil revolutions include Angola 1988, Mozambique 1988, Chad 1986, Iran-Iraq 1987. He was one of the few foreign photographers allowed to enter in some countries wich were still closed, such as North Vietnam in 1985, Oman in 1987, South Yemen in 1987 Saudi Arabia in 1987, Albania in 1988. Some of the latest reportages were realized in Central Asia documenting the trafficking of heroin across the Afghan-Tajick border. He was awarded: "Qualified European Photographer" (QEP) for this reportage in 2004.
Chronicle of a reportage along the way of heroin (Extract)
(at side of heroin's dealers hunters on the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan)
Spring, each morning the young men at camp no. 8 get up and exit the large underground chamber that shelters them from the torrid temperature. In this place, day time highs can reach 52 degrees in the shade. The youths, ten-thousand of them, are soldiers that for several months now scattered across a hundred such camps, guard the course of the river Pyandzh which, along its length of 1700 kilometers, marks Afghanistan's northern border with Tajikistan. This river, with its murky and at tracts hasty waters, is today a transition point for over 1.000 tons of heroin a year. Six hours spent on the UAZ jeep and I reach a small outpost in a place called Khirmanjo. Two youths, bound and blindfolded, are walking towards us amongst the dust clouds raised by the armored vehicles roaring to and fro. They have just been captured. They had come ashore on the Tajik river on a patched-up dingy with home made oars, hauling 24 kilos of opium. I inquire as to their age: they have no papers, but declare to be 16 and 17; this saves them from jail. They will be deported back to Afghanistan, where they will again try to cross the river in a couple of days. Fifteen dollars for each successful haul, and each time their lives are at stake. Afghanistan has become the world's leading heroin producer. In recent years, according to UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime ) figures, the criminal organizations which transport the heroin from Afghanistan to Tajikistan make up to US $ 80 million a year. Since the narco-traffick channel which used to pass through Iran and Turkey has been under pressure from Iranian authorities, much of the drug traffic has changed routes, heading north and into Russia. Today, enough heroin transits the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan to supply Great Britain's demand for nine years and Europe's for one.
My trip continues aboard an armored mechanized vehicle in the company of twenty Russian soldiers and one 31-year old Afghani, father of 5, who was arrested the night before as he guided a group of traffickers. He knows the hills like the back of his hands. They are taking him to the pebbly shore of the river so that he can point out the paths used by the other guides to cross the border. He does not want to collaborate, being afraid that the others will seek revenge on his family across the river. They force him, insisting with much coercion. He does not give in. The disparity between the twenty armed soldiers and the frail and desperate looking Afghani makes me doubt as to which side I should take. I hand him a cluster of grapes, as I wonder if he, who comes from a village just overthe border, even knows what Europe is. His legs have never carried him that far: he just cannot imagine what one kilo of heroin can mean on our streets. (Read the full text...)