Photo Essay | Bran Symondson: AKA Peace exhibition

In support of Peace One Day, this week sees the launch of ‘AKA Peace’, an exhibition curated by Jake Chapman that highlights the horrors of global violence - featuring some of the most celebrated names in contemporary art, including Damien Hirst, Antony Gormley and Sam Taylor-Wood. In an exclusive photo essay, photographer Bran Symondson, winner of the 2011 Amnesty International Media Award and originator of the idea behind the exhibition reflects on the project.

New in Ceasefire - Posted on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 0:00 - 1 Comment

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(photo: Bran Symondson)

The most celebrated names in Contemporary Art – including Damien Hirst, Antony Gormley, Jeremy Deller, Tim Noble & Sue Webster, Gavin Turk, Stuart Semple, Sarah Lucas and Sam Taylor-Wood – are uniting for Peace One Day, to react against the horror of violence globally, with ‘AKA Peace’.

Creating brand new works for a blockbuster autumn exhibition, to be curated by Jake Chapman in collaboration with non-profit organisation Peace One Day, these artists will reinterpret an AK-47 assault rifle – the most recognisable and devastating worldwide killing machine – as arresting artworks of intrigue and even beauty; recasting a weapon
of devastation as a conduit to peace.

Winner of the 2011 Amnesty International Media Award, the dynamic photographer Bran Symondson conceived the idea of AKA Peace following his experience as a soldier in Afghanistan. In the exclusive photo essay below, Symondson reflects on the project.

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A few years ago I was working in photography, fashion and advertising. Seeking a new direction, I joined the Army reserves and was soon serving in Afghanistan with the British Army, mentoring the Afghan National Police (ANP).

It was there, while spending time with the ANP, that a new perspective on the situation started started to emerge. I became aware of Afghani culture in its irreducible complexities (including, for instance, the role of the Chai boy within the group).

It was then I also noticed how the AK47, for a lot of these men, was their one and only possession, and were accordingly adorned with either colourful stickers, glitter tape or bright pink roses, beautiful-smelling natural ones or silk flowers.

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Having worked to earn their trust, I was able to photograph these intimate moments with them and somehow show glimpses of a beautiful people in a very harsh environment both natural and man-made.

Once back in the UK I was commissioned to return to Afghanistan to cover this story for The Sunday Times. This then went on to become the critically acclaimed exhibition – “The Best View Of Heaven Is From Hell”.

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This experience as well as my time in Dadaab (it was there that I photographed a man with an AK47 round still lodged in him and discovered the prominence of the AK47 as a symbol) became the seed for AKA Peace.

This has been the aim of this project: to turn the most iconic weapon in the world from one of fear and destruction into one of beauty and intrigue. To highlight, and reject, the horrors of violence and war.

AKA PEACE

Exhibition: The Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA).
26 – 30 September 2012.

Auction: Phillips de Pury & Company, Howick Place, London SW1P 1BB.
Thursday, 4 October 2012.

Bran Symondson

Bran Symondson is a London-based photographer and the winner of the 2011 Amnesty International Media Award. His website is http://www.bransymondson.com/.

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Art Assault. 23 Artists Transform Decommissioned AK-47 Rifles In The Name Of Peace. ALL The Pieces From The AKA Peace Exhibition. | 18+ Magazines
May 8, 2014 3:30

[…] are a few beautiful portraits of the artists by Bran Symondson for his Cease Fire Magazine photo essay on the […]

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