By Gallery One and a Half
Published September 5, 2014
An art exhibition documenting the final tour of duty of British troops in Afghanistan and their homecoming preparations goes on billboards across England in October 2014.
Presented by Gallery One and a Half with the support of Arts Council England, this new body of work—dubbed Helmand Return—by acclaimed commercial photographer Robert Wilson, shall be seen across England on selected billboards for two weeks. The project builds on Wilson’s 2008 project, Helmand, which recorded the faces and places behind the Afghan conflict.
This site-specific exhibition showcases a selection of photographs taken on Wilson’s recent trip to Afghanistan, and documents the British troops’ final tour of duty and homecoming preparations. As an official war artist, Wilson was granted unprecedented access to the personnel and logistical operations surrounding the drawdown in Afghanistan, allowing a rare insight into the process of ending war. These images offer a uniquely beautiful perspective on a much documented conflict with many never before recorded sights both on and off base.
Each billboard’s location is determined by the biographical data gathered from the returning troops, allowing this outdoor exhibition to be both a literal and metaphorical return home. This pop-up approach sees images of individual military personnel infiltrate the communities most affected by the Afghan war, and encourages us to actively engage with the conflict by juxtaposing familiar everyday locations such as a local Royal Mail depot with the Post Office in Camp Bastian, or a fortified bus stop in Kandahar appearing alongside a bus stop in Kettering, Northamptonshire.
It is easy to think of wars as happening ‘elsewhere’ and to ‘other people’, but this project aims to highlight the toll that this war has taken in a relevant but unsentimental way, bringing the exhibition to the people, rather than the people to the exhibition.
In a year of retrospective imagery surrounding the centenary of the First World War (WWI), these images provide a fresh perspective within the traditions of conflict photography.
Following the outdoor billboard show, Gallery One and a Half shall present Helmand Return as part of East London’s Photo Month. Anyone interested in attending the private view on October 16, 2014 may email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
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Robert Wilson was born in London in 1969, graduated from Blackpool and The Fylde College, and has since built a highly successful career in commercial photography, specialising in portraiture. His personal work builds on this aesthetic, and it is this element that sets him apart from other photographers working within the documentary genre.
Wilson’s book, Helmand, recording the faces and places of the Afghan conflict, was published by Jonathan Cape in 2008.
His work has been widely exhibited both in the UK and internationally besides being featured extensively in the national press.