Zalmaï was born in 1964 in Kabul, Afghanistan, and has spent most of his life between Europe, the United States, and Asia. His photographs have been published in such international media as the New York Times and Newsweek, as well as by NGOs including Human Rights Watch. In 2009, Zalmaï received the Visa d’Or for his feature photography on Afghanistan from the International Festival on Photojournalism in Perpignan.