PROUDUCER, PROMOTER & FUNDER FROM BOTH SIDES – Body OF PHOTOGRAPHIC ARTWORK IN AFGHANISTAIN
PROjekt’s engagement with popular culture means stepping beyond the confines of marketing and into artistic expression, work that peels back layers and challenges perspectives. When you meet people with original ideas you may not immediately know where a collaboration with them will lead. When someone like Jean Curran demonstrates their passion and vision on an original idea, you are inspired to do all you can to bring it to fruition. “From Both Sides” is a courageous and impactful suite of photographs taken on military embed in Afghanistan, then hand colored in collaboration with a local Afghan artist.
Through art, From Both Sides brings together two aspects of the conflict in Afghanistan. It opens a discourse on the narratives of conflict, without being overtly political. The work is layered with representational information, which addresses the unequal balance in reporting of conflict and the governing narratives that have been produced in Afghanistan over the last thirteen years. Most of the stories and the pictures were the same. Soldiers: Imagery and stories of the military taken from within the military. Over the thirteen years of the US and NATO intervention in Afghanistan, narratives on culture and heritage were omitted from the discussion. It was Jean’s intention to address this imbalance and to recognise the great cultural and artistic heritage that Afghanistan was once known for.
From Both Sides is a first of its kind. It is the first cross-cultural body of work produced in Afghanistan that, in collaboration with an Afghan artist, speaks about the governing narratives of conflict, while addressing the loss of Afghanistan’s artistic heritage. The technique of applying paint to the printed image combines both the supposedly objective nature of photography and war reporting, with the subjectivity of surviving and living with the uncertainty of war. It is a story that is told from both sides – hence the title From Both Sides.
First objective: Nurture the idea, implement structure and discipline around bringing such as original idea to fruition. Apply a process. Put in place a strategy. Strive to deliver excellence in execution.
One of the greatest challenges we faced was gaining access to the military coalition in Afghanistan. It is necessary to apply for military embed alongside a media organization.
Countless applications later, it seemed unlikely that the project would come to fruition. Finally, through PROjekt’s tenacity, DMG Media granted Curran a letter and she embarked on 3 days of military embed at the ISAF HQ in Kabul: the most dangerous headquarters in the country.
PROjekt handled the massive logistical and cultural challenges of getting Jean safely in and out of Afghanistan, in January 2015. As well as the embedding in Kabul this involved co-ordinating the processing of film over five days in Dubai, before returning to Afghanistan and traveling to Mazar-e-Sharif in search of an artist – with nothing more than a reference image of his work and a name: “Tagin Studios”.
PROjekt’s role was to help the artist achieve her goals and fulfill her vision against this backdrop of uncertainty, by putting together the financial package and – more importantly – giving her the moral support and belief that would help her to realize her vision.
Second objective: Get recognition for the work and for the artist. Use the work as a “calling card” to help fund other projects. In the longer term find a permanent home in a relevant collection.
The project was realized to the highest standards. Jeans original vision was brought to fruition. This included finding the artist, Mohammad Karim (of Tagin Studios) who hadn’t painted in 30 years and who agreed to collaborate on From Both Sides.
Achieving this, before any subjectivity is applied to the work, was a massive achievement by the artist, against the backdrop of Afghanistan and the challenges it presented her.
Recognition of ‘From Both Sides’ is building.
- Jean was The Irish Times Magazine cover story on the 25th of April 2015. http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/two-sides-to-the-art-of-war-in-afghanistan-1.2183877
- Jean has been interviewed by Sean Moncrief on Newstalk and she was the subject of DCFM’s Dublin Explorer in March.
Jean has met with: the Curator in Photographers’ Gallery in London; The Archive of Modern Conflict; and had conversations with the Imperial War Museum in London.