Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin | The Day Nobody Died

12 September - 26 October 2008

The Press Conference, June 9, 2008m, C-Type, 600cm x 76.2cm, unique work

Private View: Thursday 11th September 2008, 7-9pm

Paradise Row is proud to present The Day Nobody Died, a solo show by renowned photographic duo Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin.

In June of this year Broomberg and Chanarin traveled to Afghanistan to be embedded with British Army units on the front line in Helmand Province. In place of their cameras they took a roll of photographic paper 50 meters long and 76.2 cm wide contained in a simple, lightproof cardboard box.

They arrived during the deadliest month of the war. On the first day of their visit a BBC fixer was dragged from his car and executed and nine Afghan soldiers were killed in a suicide attack. The following day, three British soldiers died, pushing the number of British combat fatalities to 100. Casualties continued until the fifth day when nobody died.

In response to each of these events, and also to a series of more mundane moments, such as a visit to the troops by the Duke of York and a press conference, all events a photographer would record, Broomberg and Chanarin instead unrolled a seven-meter section of the paper and exposed it to the sun for 20 seconds. The results - strange abstract passages and patterns of black, white and variegated hues - all modulated by the heat and the light - deny the viewer the cathartic effect offered up by the conventional language of photographic responses to conflict and suffering. Instead the viewer is, by default, invited to question their relationship with images of violence and the true nature of the relations between culture, politics and morality.

Working in tandem with this deliberate evacuation of content, are the circumstances of works' production, which amount to an absurd performance in which the British Army were, unsuspectingly, playing the lead role, co-opted by the artists into transporting the box of photographic paper from London to Helmand, from one military base to another, on Hercules and Chinooks, on buses, tanks and jeeps. In this film, the box becomes an absurd, subversive object, its non-functionality sitting in quietly amused contrast to the functionality of the system that for a time served as its host. Like a barium test, the journey of the box became, when viewed from the right perspective, an analytical process, revealing the dynamics of the machine in its quotidian details, from the logistics of war to the collusion between the media and the military.


The Day Nobody Died is the expression of a considered position informed by the last ten years in which Broomberg and Chanarin have followed, to quote Janet Malcolm, "...the camera's profound misanthropy, its willingness to go to unpleasant places where no one wants to venture, its nasty preference for precisely those facets of our nature that we most wish to disown..." Their work has focused on zones of conflict; Rwanda, Darfur, Iraq, Palestine… but has always forsaken the easy production of shock or pity and so has found itself in opposition to the traditional role of the photographer as a professional witness who serves as a moral proxy for the spectator back home. The Day Nobody Died takes this position to an extreme point - its series of radically non-figurative, unique, action-photographs, comprising a profound critique of conflict photography in the age of embedded journalism and the current crisis in the concept of the engaged, professional witness.

Alongside The Day Nobody Died, Paradise Row will present a related, curated selection of previous works by Broomberg and Chanarin.