EXPOSITION DES MEMBRES
MOELLER FINE ART
BURKE + NORFOLK: PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN
Born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1963 and educated in England, Norfolk gave up photojournalism after he discovered his passion for landscape photography. Norfolk’s fascination for beautiful terrains and the destructive nature of war sets his pictures apart; his work is at once thoroughly researched and stunning in its detail, transcending the visual vocabulary of war. Norfolk recently discovered the work of 19th century Irish photographer John Burke, (1843?-1900) whose photographs were the first ever to be taken in Afghanistan. After applying to the British army as an official photographer, Burke paid his own way to Afghanistan, traveling through the country with a wooden 4 by 5 inch field camera. His eloquent images form an extraordinary record of the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1880), giving firsthand insight into international conflicts in the Middle East, the same terrain which Norfolk explores today.
Norfolk recognized in Burke’s photographs a humane and critical eye for the British colonial project and in 2010 traveled to Afghanistan in order to follow in his footsteps. In what he terms a collaboration with his Victorian forerunner, Norfolk engaged in a kind of re-photography. The result is a series of superb photographs, which are politically charged, aesthetically beautiful and awe-inspiring. Burke’s diverse photographic output included landscapes, battlefields, archaeological sites, street scenes, portraits of British officers, and ethnological group portraits of Afghans. Rather than artificially re-staging these compositions, Norfolk identified contemporary equivalents, researching and traveling to Burke’s vantage points and developing a digital version of his wet plate technique. As the singular ‘War’ in the exhibition title implies, Norfolk’s project is in part an indictment of the unrelenting impact of conflict and imperialism on the landscape and people of Afghanistan over the past 130 years. The echoing images that result from his partnership with Burke highlight points of continuity and change from either side of the twentieth-century in the war-ravaged country. Through Norfolk’s interest, Burke, a neglected pioneer of war photography, is being brought back to life. The exhibition places both artists on equal ground, both honoring Burke’s pioneering achievements and particular resonance with the Norfolk’s present.
The work of Simon Norfolk has been exhibited at more than thirty public and private institutions worldwide. He has been awarded many prizes including the European Publishers Award for Photography, The Oliver Rebbot Award (Foreign Press Club of America), the Infinity Award (ICP, New York) and Le Prix Dialogue (Arles). His work is in major private and public collections around the world and appears regularly in The New York Times Magazine and the Guardian Weekend. Norfolk already has published three monographs. Afghanistan: chronotopia (2002) has become a landmark in contemporary photography, published in five languages and now in its second edition.
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