Monday, 6 December 2010

Two books with the same theme: Guantanamo and Infidel

It's good to see two great books by British photographers about Afghanistan. The first is Tim Hetherington's Infidel, which is photographs from Hetherington's time embedded with the US army. It's a fantastic book which looks at the limitations that confinement within a small group of men can bring, not to mention the futility of fighting a war that will never be won.

With its theme of a small group of men living in a confined space in a hostile environment, Infidel has a lot in common with Edmund Clark's Guantanamo: If the Lights Go Out. This is a fantastic book that looks at how imprisonment affects people in the penal, domestic and family environments. Like Infidel, it is about the limitations of confinement (and this might mean many kinds of confinement), but while Infidel visits  ground that has already been very well trodden, Guantanamo shows me someting new and has an intelligence and dry elegance that is exceptional.

Both these books cast a tiny beam of light on Afghanistan but it is always good to remember that it is only a tiny beam. When people talk about photography and how it has all been done, I think of Afghanistan and the vast range of communities and viewpoints that have not been touched upon and will probably never been touched upon. Photography is not complete and has not even started to be complete.

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