In 2002, the photographer Martin Roemers produced a series of portraits of Dutch soldiers who were stationed in Afghanistan. The troops’ home base was the Johan Willem Friso barracks in Assen. To make these portraits, Roemers used an antique camera borrowed from a street photographer in Kabul.
Martin Roemers has worked on a number of projects focusing on the consequences of armed conflicts and war. The individuals he photographed in Afghanistan belonged to the international ISAF security forces, which is made up of army units from several NATO countries. After the fall of the Taliban in December 2001, ISAF was tasked with safeguarding security in Kabul as well as training and advising the Afghan military.
While he was in Kabul, Roemers came across some street photographers who were taking passport photos of Afghans in a square, using an antique camera in a large wooden box. No film was exposed to make the picture. Instead, the light fell on a piece of photographic paper that was developed and fixed in the box. Roemers had his own picture taken. When he saw the result, he decided that he wanted to make portraits of the Dutch troops using this camera and this technique.
He improvised a studio at the NATO compound and borrowed a camera from one of the street photographers. He selected the soldiers on the basis of facial expressions and a certain presence. The subjects were required to remain motionless for a full ten seconds while Roemers took their pictures. The Afghan photographer developed the photos on the spot. The result is an unvarnished series, full of flaws, spots and scratches, and steeped in earnestness.
Brink 1, 9401 HS Assen, Netherlands
March 25, 2018 to June 10, 2018