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Afghanistan Chronotopia: Landscapes of the Destruction of Afghanistanby Simon Norfolk
Winner of the European Publishers Award for Photography 2002
Synopses & Reviews
This year's winner of the European Publishers Award for Photography is London based photographer Simon Norfolk. The work has already received massive critical acclaim and more than a dozen simultaneous exhibitions are scheduled throughout the world from Autumn 2002 in venues including Hereford Photography Festival; Side Gallery, Newcastle; Photofusion, London; Trace Gallery, Weymouth, Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool; Museum of Architecture, Frankfurt, Germany; The Halsey Gallery, South Carolina, USA; Blue Sky Gallery, Portland, USA; Benham Gallery, Seattle, USA.
"Afghanistan is unlike Sarajevo or Kigali or any other war-ravaged landscape I have ever photographed. In Kabul in particular, the devastation has a bizarre layering; the different destructive eras lying on top of each other. I was reminded of the story of Schliemann?s discovery of the remains of the classical city of Troy in the 1870s; digging down, he found nine cities layered upon each other, each one in its turn rebuilt and destroyed. Walking a Kabul street can be like walking through a Museum of the Archaeology of War — different moments of destruction lie like sediment on top of each other. There are places near Bagram Air Base or on the Shomali Plain where the front line has passed back and forth eight or nine times — each leaving a deadly flotsam of destroyed homes and fields seeded with landmines.
"The landscapes of Afghanistan are the scenes that I knew first from the Illustrated Children?s Bible given to me by my parents when I was a child. When David battled Goliath, these mountains and deserts were behind them. When Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, these fauna and flora were over his shoulders. More accurately, these landscapes are how my childish imagination pictured the Apocalypse or Armageddon; utter destruction on a massive, Babylonian scale bathed in the crystal light of a desert sunrise." — Simon Norfolk
The photographs in this volume seek to show something of the scale of the problems facing Afghanistan as it tries to recover from the war of 2002.
Harrowing and unforgetable photographs showing the destruction of Afghanistan over the last 20 years.
Afghanistan has been ravaged by war for more than twenty years; the Soviet Union, the Mujaheddin, the Taliban and the United States have all played their part. Norfolk’s powerfully beautiful images reveal utter devastation on a vast and overwhelming scale. Afghanistan is unique, utterly unlike any other war-ravaged landscape. In Bosnia, Dresden or the Somme, for example, the devastation appears to have taken place within one period, inflicted by a small gamut of weaponry. However, the sheer length of the war in Afghanistan, now in its 24th year, means the ruins have a bizarre layering; different moments of destruction lying like sedimentary strata on top of each other.
Afghanistan won the Leica-sponsored European Publishers Award for Photography 2002.
An exhibition began its US tour in late 2002.
Simon Norfolk worked as a photojournalist through the early ’90s on projects relating to fascism, the far-right, anti-rascism issues and Northern Ireland. He was assigned to eastern Europe at the fall of the Berlin Wall and covered the Gulf War. In the mid ’90s he turned to landscape photography, working for four years on his book For Most Of It I Have No Words: Genocide, Landscape, Memory. This was published to wide acclaim including praise from the novelist Anne Michaels and Louise Arbour, Chief Prosecutor of the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.
About the Author
Simon Norfolk?s photographs have appeared in titles as varied as the New York Times Magazine, the Sunday Times Magazine, the South China Morning Post, and La Republicca Magazine — and in 2001 he won a prestigious World Press Award. His first book For Most Of It I Have No Words (Dewi Lewis Publishing), about the landscapes of the places that have seen Genocide, was published in 1998 to wide acclaim including praise from the novelist Anne Michaels and from Louise Arbour, Chief Prosecutor of the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.
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