Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Battlefield as Landscape

“I didn’t become a photographer to become an artist.
I became a photographer to talk about things that interest me.

Simon Norfolk

The British photographer Simon Norfolk describes himself as a landscape photographer who specializes in battlefields and as the future of warfare increasingly enters the realm of the cyberspace the challenge of what to point his camera at becomes problematic.

As he told FK Magazine’s Arnis BalčusThe invisible warfare, that’s where the real money is being spent. They want to read your emails, turn on a camera on your computer, take a photo with your mobile phone. That’s the warfare of the future. How do you photograph that all? It is a real challenge for me.

It was an earlier challenge that led Norfolk to become a photographer. About which he has said “I went to the university to be an academic. I thought of doctoral thesis – if you go and see them in a library, sometimes you take those books off the shelve and see that literally no one has ever read them since placing on the shelve. [The] idea of working on something for four years that no one will read seemed too depressing for me. I thought – how can you make it more interesting to people? One of my lecturers said I should look at the books her husband has made. I looked at a couple of books and half was photography and half text. They were books where arguments were well made, really great photography and I read all of them… I asked my tutor’s husband where he went to college and he said “Newport”… [The] college in Newport had a very good reputation, very dry, photography and photojournalism, nothing fancy, run by Magnum photographer David Hurn.

After a decade of doing freelance photography, mostly for magazines, Norfolk abandoned general photojournalism to concentrate on the landscape of the battlefield.

As he told BLDGBLOG “I didn't get fed up with the subjects of photojournalism – I got fed up with the clichés of photojournalism, with its inability to talk about anything complicated… So, I started off in Afghanistan photographing literal battlefields… [But]  I wanted to stretch that idea of what a battleground could be. What is a landscape – a surface, an environment, a space – created by warfare?”

Now with seven books to his credit Norfolk stands with a foot in both the art world and world of photojournalism.

And as he wrote for his 2006/2007 touring exhibition Et in Arcadia ego "These photographs form chapters in a larger project attempting to understand how war, and the need to fight war, has formed our world: how so many of the spaces we occupy; the technologies we use; and the ways we understand ourselves, are created by military conflict." 

Norfolk’s latest exhibition Time Taken is on show at London’s Michael Hoppen Gallery until the 8th of September.

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