Today, in 2002 (1381 according to the Muslim calendar), after 13 years of wars, during which the nation has been fighting Russia and Kabul's communist regime, four years of civil war, six under the Taliban dictatorship and America's military action of last year, Afghanistan is set to zero.
Florence's SpazioFoto Credito Artigiano is currently hosting an exhibition of photographs, which offer an overview of the everyday life in a country exacerbated by a 20-year period of conflicts.
Internationally renown photographers Simon Norfolk and Paolo Woods are the authors of astonishing images portraying the most peculiar features of these lands and of the Muslim world.
Inspired by Caspar David Friedrich and Claude Lorraine's painting, in general by all paintings of ruinous sceneries , Norfolk has focused on the profound changes and devastation that have been affecting Afghanistan during the war. To him, the Afghan land is very different from Sarajevo, Kingali and from any other suffering land he ever happened to portray. Here, long conflicts have led to a sort of bizarre destruction, in which stratified ruins seem to mark the different stages of this process. Norfolk gives a portrait of a nation that contains images you would find, perhaps, in a 'War Museum' .
Tanks left in the countryside by Russian occupation troops in the 1980s, just like agricultural waste or used to build embankments and bridges. Today, ruins of the buildings collapsed under machine-gunning are lying in an orderly way in the 1990s battlegrounds while tangles of metal is what remains of those collapsed under US and British air raids
Norfolk is the author of twelve colour images sized 61x79.5 cm , collected in a project called 'Afghanistan: chronotopia' (pp. 96, € 39) - co-published by five major European publishing houses among which the Italian Peliti Associati - which was given the European Publishers Award for Photography in 2002
Woods is the author of a project called 'Afghanistan Anno zero', consisting of the best photographs that he has been taking over the last seven years (over twenty duotone images sized 40x40 cm). Paolo Woods has recently been at work on a photo reportage for French magazine 'Le Figaro', which has led him to cross this hermit country on the old circular route, of which few lines remain today to connect Kabul with Mazar-e Sharif, Herat and Kandahar.
Woods has portrayed Afghans under the war lords, the Pasthun dictatorship, drought, problems of agriculture , reconstruction, famine and landmines, over two million Pakistani and Iranian refugees, disarmament, opium poppy, brigandage and sacking of most archaeological sites, road conditions (actually, the Afghan roads are just tracks across a hermit land), problems of education, the female condition, i.e. the difficult life of Afghan women, in particular with respect to love and family.
The exhibition 'Afghanistan: Guerra e vita quotidiana' has been mounted on the occasion of Tuscany Biennale Exhibition of Photography 2002, an event organised and sponsored by Fondazione Studio Marangoni and Dryphoto Arte Contemporanea.
Simon Norfolk was born in Nigeria in 1963. He is a member of London photo agency Growbag and has contributed photo reportages to several European magazines. First a press photographer, Norfolk early works were reportages on Fascism and British right-wing extremists, Northern Ireland, Eastern Europe, the Gulf War. The latest works are landscape portraits.
Simon Norfolk is the author of a book called For most of it I have no Words: Genocide, Landscape, Memory - published by Dewi Lewis Publishing in 1998 - which collects images of lands that have suffered genocides. He was given the World Press Photo Award in 2001.
Born in Amsterdam in 1970, Paolo Woods has been working in the field of photography since 1995. He is the author of photo reportages from Haiti, Pakistan, Egypt, Vietnam, Kosovo, Albania.
He is currently at work on projects on the Muslim world, in particular Iran and Afghanistan.
He has also contributed some photographs to European magazines 'Stern', 'Le Figaro', 'Le Temps', 'La Repubblica', 'L'Unità', 'Diario della Settimana'. He has been a member of Anzenberger Photo Agency since December 2000. Photographs by Paolo Woods are in public and private collections (e.g. Paris Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Qatar Sheik Saud Al-Thani Collection), which were presented in several photo exhibitions hosted in Italy as well as in other European countries.