Striking portraits of British soldiers in Afghanistan

RENOWNED portrait photographer Robert Wilson was invited to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, by Brigadier Andrew Mackay, commander of 52 Brigade.

Friday, 2nd November 2012, 5:00 am

The photographs in this exhibition were taken in the remote Forward Operating Base,(FOB), Edinburgh, near Musa Kala in Helmand Province Afghanistan.

Wilson said: “The soldiers photographed had just come in from a few days on patrol.

“They were in need of refreshments and rest but first had to wait to listen to a briefing regarding the rules and operations of the FOB.

“It was after this that I asked each in turn if I could take their picture.

“No one complained; everyone was happy to oblige. I captured a few frames of each person, which took no more than about 20 seconds each. 

“I was fortunate, as I was packed up and ready to go from the base.

“I had stayed a couple of nights there and was waiting for the next helicopter to take us out, which was delayed en-route, it gave me a few hours more during which the patrol came in.

“The portraits were the last and probably most important images I captured in those few days”. 

The exhibition at Stade Hall, is a selection of images which were displayed rooftop of The Hayward Gallery in London last Summer, as part of the Southbank Festival of Britain.

It concentrates on a set of portraits of British soldiers whose gaze could prompt questions in us of our own thoughts and feelings around the subject of loyalty, fellowship, society and the state.

The show deliberately straddles Remembrance Day, which falls on November 11, a time when we have a heightened awareness of these issues.

Born in London in 1969, Wilson has had a passion for photography from an early age.

He has been commissioned for editorial and advertising projects by clients based throughout Europe and the USA, and has worked on portrait campaigns for clients ranging from Adidas, to The US Marines, Siemens and The Old Vic.

His work has been recognized by The Association of Photographers Awards, European Art Directors Club, The Design and Art Directors Club, and the John Kobal Portrait Awards.

In February 2008, Wilson was invited to go to Afghanistan by the Commander of the forces in Helmand.

He went as a war artist where he was shooting the people and places around Helmand Province, with the British Army 52 Brigade, who were part of the NATO International Security Assistance Force mission.

This work, simply titled Helmand was published in September 2008.

From March 2009, work from the Helmand project was exhibited in a solo show at The National War Museum, in Edinburgh. The exhibition was entitled, Helmand-Faces Of Conflict, and ran for a year and a half.

During the Summer of 2011 the Helmand work was exhibited on the rooftop of The Hayward Gallery as part of the Southbank 2010 Festival of Britain.

The exhibition at Stade Hall runs from November 1 until November 14, and is open daily from 11am to 5pm.

Entry is free.