Five Picture Story Idea + Simon Norfolk Afghanistan: Chronotopia

I have decided that for my five picture story my subject matter will be the Predannack Air Field at Helston here in Cornwall. As I have got a place on a field trip there and after doing some research feel it will be a really interesting subject matter to record using film which I would like to use for this project. I have been reading about the history of the air field and think that recording how it is used to day will make for a really interesting five picture story. 

As part of my research for these five picture story projects I have been looking at documentary photography. The first photographer I would like to look at in depth is Simon Norfolk, in particular his Afghanistan Chronotopia series. 

Simon Norfolk is a Nigerian landscape photographer from Lagos whose work mainly focuses on the nature of battlefields and conflict zones in their various forms. The war in Afghanistan has been going on for nearly 30 years now and because of this the landscape has been very much changed by the conflicts over this long period of time. This 12 picture series is one chapter in a continuous project Norfolk has been creating which attempts to understand how war and the need to fight war has shaped our world. The project also explores how daily life is influenced by military conflict through the technology we use and films we watch for example.

I took a particular interest in Afghanistan: Chronotopia, because of the way Norfolk uses landscape photography and takes influence from romantic paintings of ruins, to document this unique landscape that now looks to be post apocalyptic with these visible layers of damage and ruin. To get the kind of rich yellow light we see in these photographs that is alike to that of paintings by Constable and Turner he would get up at dawn to photograph these landscapes. What is so potent about these photographs is that they show that the natural landscape can tell us stories and just how much war shapes and designs not our society but also our landscape. 

I find these photographs deeply haunting in the way they lack any actual human presence and that the only remains of these attacks are the technology and weapons such as unexploded bombs and abandoned tanks rather than there being any traces of those killed fighting in this war zone. It just further communicates how inhuman wars actually are, and that in order to study wars you have to study ruins.

The word 'chronotype' refers to a landscape that displays layers of time. The chronotopia of Afghanistan acts like a shattered reflection of the landscape's past. The ruins show old civilisations and what has been lost over the years. Norfolk's photographs in this series show us a landscape now devoid of these civilisations and life, instead they have the ruins of their past and the weaponry of war.

In the way war shapes this landscape I think it will be interesting to show how stories such as hauntings add social meanings to the places they have occurred in. This project has given me a lot more to consider for both my five picture story and my self directed project in how I can use landscape photography to tell a story and how much aesthetic considerations such as the time of day a photograph is taken at can change the entire feeling of an image.

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