Image:All Images Bryan Symondson
28th Jan – 20th Feb 2011
Astonishing images of the Afghan National Police as soldier returns to
Afghanistan as a civilian photographer to document their daily lives and struggle against the Taliban.
As a serving soldier in the British Army, Bran Symondson became fascinated by the Afghan National Police (ANP), their ethos and their daily existence in the war with the Taliban. When he was given the opportunity to return and document these characters as a civilian photographer in 2010, he was able to capture a unique perspective on the current conflict.
Symondson’s photographs represent a side of the conflict that has remained completely untold until now. For the first time, an exhibition of his remarkable work will be on show at The Idea Generation Gallery, in images that lay bare the remarkable contradictions in the life of an Afghan policeman.
The men of the ANP preserve as well as corrupt; they must be relied upon, but can’t be trusted; they are proud of their appearance in the midst of squalor, and are curiously feminine in a world of machismo, force and power. The role of the ANP is at the heart of every contradiction, as it is their job to keep the encroaching sides apart, yet help bring Afghanistan together as a nation.
Symondson had gained unique access to the men serving with the ANP and formed bonds of trust in this enormously difficult environment. His photographs are unique not only because the ANP is unique, but because of his empathy with his subjects, and the beauty he is able to bring to such chaotic juxtaposition.
The alliance between the ANP and their British “trainers” is encapsulated in one exceptional image: a mouse sits trapped on a rose, beneath it a scorpion. It is finely balanced between respect and death: neither has a safe way out.
“Something about looking through a lens, rather than a rifle sight calmed me down. Recording the situation somehow made it okay. The guys around me laughed; there is often something about being in extreme danger that’s funny.”