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My mandate to be bold

A Monitor photographer gets over shyness to be the eyes of a readership.

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April 2012: Women at Showra Qurbonian center play with a baby while on a break.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File

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I am shy by nature. When I travel for fun, without the license my job provides to approach strangers cold, I photograph landscapes, textures, and the details of a place, not the people.

But for a photojournalist, "shy" is not an option. I've learned to overcome my reserve – at least when I'm working. I can be bold because I know I must be the eyes of our readers. So sometimes I get to do what I was able to do in this instance: "time travel" back a century and connect with people who seemed nothing like me; a connection I'll never forget. About 10 of them sat around the edges of a small room in Kabul, Afghanistan, huddled over their embroidery at a center that teaches women moneymaking skills and provides literacy training. I loved these women. I loved photographing them. This time it was the people in front of the camera who were shy – at first. After we got used to each other, smiling and giggling together, none of us were.

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