Afghanistan Comes to Life with Inkjet Printed Fabric

Photographic exhibition printed on fabric
Beyond the Mountains: The Interior Life of Afghanistan by Lisa Schnellinger chronicles the everyday life of Afghanistan's people. This exhibition at the Sharptop Arts Association's gallery in Jasper, Ga., features hanging photographic tapestries printed on LexJet Water-Resistant Cloth by John Seibel Photography.

Lisa Schnellinger is a globetrotting journalist and photographer whose engagement in Afghanistan goes far beyond the scope of her work. Schnellinger has become involved in the rebuilding of Afghanistan, founding the Pajhwok Afghan News agency and raising funds to build a girls’ school.

Photographic tapestries for a photo exhibitSchnellinger wanted to tell the story of Afghanistan through photography using an interactive art exhibition as the means to do so. Having seen other exhibitions printed on a silk material, Schnellinger turned to fellow Georgia photographer John Seibel, owner of John Seibel Photography in Dawsonville, Ga.

“I did some regular prints for her prior to this project. I was fascinated with her new project. Lisa told me that for the past ten years she’s had a vision of a show telling the story of the people of Afghanistan from a non-political point of view. She knew I had an Epson 7900 printer and wanted to know if I could print it on silk,” explains Seibel. “I did a lot of research, including at LexJet, and they suggested LexJet Water-Resistant Satin Cloth. One of the nice things about LexJet is that they guarantee satisfaction: if it doesn’t work for your purposes and you send it back within 30 days it’s no harm, no foul. I had never printed on a fabric before, so that was good to know.”

Once the primary print material for the show was chosen, Schnellinger and Seibel worked together to narrow the images down from 100-150 to the 20 or so that would be printed for the exhibition, called Beyond the Mountains: The Interior Life of Afghanistan.

Printing photos on fabric for an exhibition“The goal was to have them produced near life-size and floating in the room so that when people walked through they felt like they were interacting with the people she photographed in Afghanistan,” says Seibel. “We did some test prints on regular luster paper and then strips on the Water-Resistant Satin Cloth. Once we felt like we had the profile and adjustments right, we began printing. LexJet does a great job of producing profiles for their materials, and the profile for the Water-Resistant Satin Cloth was right on the money for my Epson 7900.”

Schellinger designed the layout for the exhibition, which included an audio tour. Attendees could grab an mp3 player with an audio track Schellinger narrated that provided background and stories about the images featured at the exhibition. The combination of hanging fabric tapestries and the audio tour created a dynamic, flowing, interactive and three-dimensional experience.

Photo exhibition about Afghanistan
Lisa Schnellinger, journalist and photographer, who created the exhibition Beyond the Mountains: The Interior Life of Afghanistan.

“The color resolution on the fabric prints came out very nice. You could lay it on the table and it looked good, but it didn’t blow you away until you hung it up in the room and then had the light interacting with the prints,” says Seibel. “I’ve done other prints with Water-Resistant Satin Cloth, including an early morning marina scene. I have it lit from behind and all the light areas in the print just glow. It’s a fantastic medium to print this type of project on. That’s one thing that LexJet does for us; they give us great advice on what products to use for what type project. I’d also like to try LEDs behind it to create the glow artificially.”

Posters for Troops Project: Coloring the Troops’ Surroundings with Inkjet Printing

Support the troops with inkjet printed postersEvery little bit helps, and you would be surprised how much a colorful, artistic poster of home helps our troops overseas. As R.J. LaBarba of LaBarba Fine Art puts it, “Day in and day out of staring at the same monotonous surroundings begins to grate on them.”

The surroundings of our military personnel, particularly in forward operating positions in Afghanistan and Iraq, are rather spartan, to say the least. LaBarba and his brother Mike, owners of LaBarba Fine Art in Huntersville, N.C., just north of Charlotte, set out to do something about it.

What started as printing a few posters from their original artwork gallery for anyone in the military they can find who could use a poster pick-me-up soon morphed into the Posters for Troops Project. At this point, LaBarba estimates that they’ve printed at least 150 posters for overseas personnel, mostly in Afghanistan.

Canvas wrap for the USO of North Carolina
LaBarba Fine Art also donated a custom gallery wrap printed on Sunset Select Matte Canvas, coated with Sunset Gloss Coating and stretched on one-inch bars. The gallery wrap is displayed in the main hallway of the USO of North Carolina's Charlotte Center.

“The Posters for Troops Project came about from a conversation I had with some colleagues mine, one of whom was a West Point grad who fought in the first Gulf War. We talked about the conditions in which they live and then I did some research into their current conditions at forward operating bases in Afghanistan and Iraq,” explains LaBarba. “What you see are these shanty-type structures built out of plywood and converted cargo containers. Everything is plywood walls, army green and sand. They’re getting great support from home through care packages with drink mixes, food, laundry items and whatnot. And not that they don’t need more of that, but we wanted to contribute something they don’t expect at all, and more importantly, something to improve their surroundings and boost their morale with a taste of home.”

A Marine corporal stationed in Afghanistan recently wrote: “Thank you so much for the posters! The Marines here at HMH-463 have received care packages in the past, but I must say that this was the first time we have been sent posters, and it was a wonderful and refreshing surprise… Many of us have grown homesick for the beautiful scenery of the Islands [HMH-463 is based in Hawaii] and the posters have definitely brought a little bit of home here to us. The one of the beach scene is taped up next to my workspace and it brightens my day. Your thoughts, prayers and support mean the world to all of the Marines here, and we thank you again for all you do to keep our heads up and spirits high.”

Creating banners for the troops with inkjet printing
Thank-you banner for a Special Forces unit stationed in Afghanistan.

And that’s the point of the Posters for Troops Project. The troops are fortunate that R.J. and Mike LaBarba are master photographers and meticulous fine art and photo print producers, running two Epson large format inkjet printers. The troops not only get a touch of home, but a touch of home with a true-color artistic flair.

LaBarba struck up a special relationship with a Special Forces group in Afghanistan that also helped those troops with their “hearts and minds” mission. In addition to sending the group posters, LaBarba donated colorful 4×6 prints for the troops to pass out to Afghani children under the care of the forward surgical unit the Special Forces group supports.

That led LaBarba to donate two 28 in. x 50 in. custom thank-you banners printed on LexJet Sunset Select Matte Canvas, one to hang proudly outside and the other for the commanding officer’s office. The banners were given three coats of LexJet Sunset Gloss Coating to weather the harsh conditions and LaBarba says they both came through the tour of duty with flying colors.

Now back at their base in Florida, the company requested a similar banner they could sign and present to the commanding officer, who’s retiring in June. LaBarba was happy to oblige and printed the presentation piece on LexJet 8 Mil PolyGloss Banner.

Inkjet printed decor art for home and office
A sample of LaBarba Fine Art's fine art photography and inkjet reproduction for wall decor.

“We’re continuing this program and getting more interest from people who want to participate. We operate it as a non-profit, but we’re getting to the point where we need to set it up as an official non-profit. It’s an expensive and time-consuming process but it is absolutely worth it for those who put their lives on the line every day,” says LaBarba.

For more information, to get involved and to donate, go to