Simon Norfolk

Against This War

The development of military technology from the slingshot David used to kill Goliath to the stealth bomber is an ongoing negative foil contrasting with the advances of civilization. The ancient Greeks were already aware that war was the father of all things; perhaps because the so-called evil is as old as humanity.

There have always been people outraged by war. They refuse to bow down to the dimensions of history. They do not wish to accept that we are unable to create a world in which members of all nations, religions and social classes can live together in peace. People who think like this are called pacifists. Simon Norfolk does not define himself as a pacifist. But he is against this war: the US war on terror. He calls it arrogant and imperialist.

Norfolk has declared war on this war, and his weapon of choice is a camera. However, it is not the 35mm camera of the war reporter, used in the midst of the action, but the large-format plate camera of the photo artist, which creates distance. He traveled through Afghanistan with it – where war and destruction have shaped and scarred the landscape and architecture for millennia now – and composed images of great clarity, imbued with tranquility and a sublime touch.

What we can see in them is the war’s legacy in the country: the front of a government building all shot up, the remains of a teahouse, the ruins of a bus station, a cemetery for airplanes, or a lost tank track twisted on the desert ground like the spine of a dinosaur skeleton. “I could have brought far worse images back with me,” says Simon Norfolk, “but no one wants to see maimed bodies and the like any longer.” As a consequence, Norfolk chose a different route to oppose the horrors of war – namely that of bizarre beauty.

Norfolk is no classicist, even if his images might lead one to believe it. For him, beauty has never been a purpose in itself, but a means to seduce the viewer into accepting his perspective. His silent witnesses tell the eye seeking beauty all about the awful action that the images spare us – bloodbaths, human abysses and endless suffering.

Biographical information


born in Lagos, Nigeria

graduated from the Department of Philosophy and Sociology at the University of Bristol

studied photographic documentary in Newport under Davis Hum

lives and works in London