12/21/2013 07:29 am ET Updated Feb 20, 2014

'Eyes Wide Open, an Afghan Journey': Photos by Pia Torelli

I've come to know photo reporter Pia Torelli at the Dubai International Film Festival. On any given day during the nine-day event, she could be found capturing celebrity shots on the red carpet, but also shooting the atmosphere of the place through her artistic lens, in true Torelli style. She's obviously dedicated as a photographer, and strong and determined as a woman. Those are traits I admire.

But beyond our personal interactions -- she also happens to be a fellow Italian -- Torelli's work speaks for itself. Her photographs are undoubtedly iconic. In particular, the ones that stand out for me are those she has taken on her travels to Afghanistan, a place she's returned to visit and photograph since backpacking there in the late 70's, while on a tour of the world with friends.

This month, the Alliance Française in Dubai, is holding an exhibit of Torelli's work titled 'Eyes Wide Open - An Afghan Journey' with photos taken by the world-class photographer on two separate journeys, one in 2002 and one in October of 2013. On her first return to Afghanistan in 2002, Torelli was struck by the changes she witnessed in the country, like women everywhere wearing burkas (she'd only observed them in 1977 on the streets of Herat) and the Buddhas of Bamiyan, the statues on top of which Pia had climbed, had been since destroyed (quite publicly by the Taliban in March of 2001).

Of her work, Torelli says "my pictures show great devastation, but also many cheerful faces, especially those of children at schools. The reconstruction of many schools, above all, seems to give hope to the Afghan people." Torelli's third trip to Kabul this past October was sponsored by the initiative FBMI, created by Her Highness Sheikha Fatema Bint Mohammed Bin Zayed. This brilliant Abu Dhabi-based initiative, with a showroom in Dubai, provides resources, compassion and opportunity for impoverished women to free themselves from economic hardship and take leading roles in Afghanistan's future. At the opening night of Torelli's exhibit, the beautiful carpets woven by Afghan women from the FBMI initiative were also on display.

'Eyes Wide Open - An Afghan Journey' runs through December 31st at the Alliance Française, Oud Metha, street 18 in Dubai. Check out her slideshow below, with a few comments from Torelli herself.

Pia Torelli: %u2018Eyes Wide Open - An Afghan Journey%u2019
Pia Torelli: %u2018Eyes Wide Open - An Afghan Journey%u2019

All images courtesy of Pia Torelli, used with permission