This was a small exhibition of modern and imperial photographs from Afghanistan (here). A mixture of images from the 19th century joined with photos taken during the recent imperial adventure. The 19th century photographs are fortifications, portraits and military scenes. Sepia tones. Victorian collector? Showing the people at home, the extent of empire, our subjects. Simon Norfolk’s images are in a similar vein, showing and displaying the other. But they are different. Colour images, knowing, moving on from the previous photos. The older pictures look romantic and prehaps exotic. The modern shots are in some ways beautiful but they are also ordinary. Very ordinary. But in a good way. It cuts through our expectations of war zone, of other. Many of the images in the current Tate Modern photography exhibits seem to follow this theme. It almost seems as if the photographers are escaping the society of the spectacle by refusing the spectacle. It’s the under statement the suggestion that undermines? The colours of Norfolk’s pictures seem cold after Burke’s warmly toned B & W. They are hung together. This position provides comparison and the few b&w that Norfolk has included here seem to directly mirror the older pictures of faces and figures. Almost as if nothing has changed. History repeated.
Simon Norfolk talks about making the photos in this video. Interesting to hear him talking about the use of beauty and see him interacting with the world around him. Also his comments about light and use of certain qualities of light to add a theme, a coldness, an end of optimism to the pictures.