I went to hear Simon Norfolk talk about the Burke + Norfolk: Photographs From The War In Afghanistan at The Tate Modern Gallery last week, which was both interesting and enlightening. What was nice in hearing Norfolk talk is that he is very down to earth and was very passionate about his work and the subject of war.
Norfolk began photographing in Afghanistan in 2001, just after the war broke out, but didn’t return after that for nine years. The reason for his return was when one of John
Burke’s books was pointed out to him in a library, of which there are only seven in the world because each one is hand made and printed. Not only was John Burke a war photographer, he also photographed the second Anglo-Afghan war (1878 to 1880). As a consequence of finding this work, Norfolk returned to Afghanistan in 2010. He did not try to copy burkes photos exactly, nor did he try to imitate his style, instead he tried to capture the spirit of Burke within his own photos, he asked himself ‘what wold Burke photograph today?’. What Norfolk found refreshing about burkes work was that unlike war photojournalists of today, there were no guns/blood/explosions within it, just portraits, landscapes and military camps, pure documentation.
Norfolk has presented the work as a collaboration; the old mixed with the new equally, and although it is easy to distinguish Norfolk’s colour photos from Burke’s black and white ones, they really did work well as a combined set, Norfolk’s photos an echo of Burke’s.
Kabul ‘Pizza Express’ Restaurant Behind The Municipal Bus Depot 2010
© The artist