Simon Norfolk for Photography on a Postcard

"Simon Norfolk is a very talented driven young photographer who is pursuing one of life's big questions with intensity and focused intention. He is studying war, and its effects on many things: the physical shape of our citied and natural environments, social memory, the psychology of societies, and more."

- Jim Casper, Lensculture

Simon Norfolk - Kamchatka  Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery

Simon Norfolk is a Nigerian documentary photographer who works as a regular contributor to National Geographic. His work focuses mainly on the theme of 'battlegrounds' though his exploration of it is extremely varied and nuanced, focusing on life surrounding warfare such as refugees and landscapes, as well as systematic violence in war zones and of weaponry. 

His series of photographs Afghanistan: Chronotopia is a focus on the landscapes of Afghanistan and it's ruins. He draws a conscious link between the obsessive focus we have in the West of the ruins of Greece and Rome to the ruins of a country torn apart by modern weaponry. He describes the 'layers' of destruction that exists upon the land and architecture there, landmines and abandoned tanks in front of a backdrop of buildings that have been shot at, with roofs that have had bombs dropped upon them. Norfolk's work is beautiful in a traditional aesthetic sense, brilliantly composed and awe inspiring, but they are also deeply political. This series reveals an understanding of the interlocking systems of modern warfare that make it so utterly complex, with the complexities revealing themselves as layers upon layers within his photographs. 

Simon has also been photographing supercomputers in the US and Europe that are used to design military systems and test-launches of nuclear missiles. He said that 'These computers are not amiable assistants they are distant and sinister; cold and inscrutable. In a zero-sum game, it feels like they grow stronger not to help us, but at our expense.' The photographs themselves are cold and eerie, like shots from a Stanley Kubrick sci-fi. The machines he photographs have no compassion for the people they are designed to destroy, they have no capacity to understand their own consequences and yet they are designed to help us kill on mass. It is a sinister look into the future of warfare and also technology- at a world being killed by it's own disaffected invention. 

The piece Simon has submitted for us is of one of the mountains in Kamchatka, a Russian peninsula in the Russian Far East. It lies on the pacific ocean with the next stop being America. The landscape in the piece is one of the volcanoes on the island. Given the foreboding nature of Simon's photography one can't help but see one deeply political metaphor within this photograph. Since the cold war the US and Russia's relations have remained on the surface and for the most part dormant, until now. Donald Trump's recent presidency has ignited a new frenzy over the hot and cold relationships between the US and Russia, and like the volcano between them, the world waits to see if something will erupt. 

Norfolk's work has been widely recognised: he has won The Discovery Prize at Les Rencontres d'Arles in 2005; the Infinity Prize from The International Center of Photography in 2004; and the European Publishing Award in 2002. In 2013 he won the Prix Pictet Commission. His work has been shown internationally, and is held in many major collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Getty in Los Angeles, SF MOMA, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, TX, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO. In 2011 his Burke+Norfolk work was a solo show at Tate Modern.

If you would like to have your work exhibited alongside Simon Norfolk and many other brilliant photographers, you can submit 2 photographs through our Open Call. 200 of the best will be chosen. Good luck! Click here:


About the writer
Rosa Torr has a BA in Politics and Philosophy from University College Dublin, though she herself is from London.  Her place of interest is political theory and in particular Gender Studies. Rosa has written for numerous online publications and the University Observer. She is also a theatre maker and is currently co-artistic director of BUMP&GRIND Theatre Company. The show she co-wrote BUMP will be on at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer.   

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