As a serving soldier in the British Army, Bran Symondson became fascinated by the Afghan National Police (ANP), their ethos and their daily existence in the war with the Taliban. When he was given the opportunity to return and document these characters as a civilian photographer in 2010, he was able to capture a unique perspective on the current conflict. This collection lays bare the remarkable contradictions in the life of an Afghan policeman. The men of the ANP preserve as well as corrupt; they must be relied upon, but can’t be trusted; they are proud of their appearance in the midst of squalor, and are curiously feminine in a world of machismo, force and power. The role of the ANP is at the heart of every contradiction, as it is their job to keep the encroaching sides apart, yet help bring Afghanistan together as a nation. Symondson had gained unique access to the men serving with the ANP and formed bonds of trust in this enormously difficult environment. His photographs are unique not only because the ANP is unique, but because of his empathy with his subjects, and the beauty he is able to bring to such chaotic juxtaposition.
“A unique set of provocative and intimate images that explore the complex relationships of ‘brothers in arms’” Jon Jones, Sunday Times Magazine
“There’s a similarity between a soldier and a photographer, they are both looking intensely for the moment.” Bran Symondson
“I genuinely believe that Bran’s extraordinary pictures could become images by which this conflict is remembered for decades to come. I cannot praise them, or Bran’s courageousness and talent, highly enough. Bran’s photographs are unlike any I have ever seen. An enormously accomplished reportage photographer, his outlook is unique.” James Mullinger, Photo Editor, GQ Magazine
“Something about looking through a lens, rather than a rifle sight calmed me down. Recording the situation somehow made it okay. The guys around me laughed; there is often something about being in extreme danger that’s funny.” Bran Symondson