107 - Simon Norfolk


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Simon Norfolk (b. 1963, Lagos, Nigeria) is a landscape photographer whose work over twenty years has been themed around a probing and stretching of the meaning of the word 'battlefield' in all its forms. As such, he has photographed in some of the world's worst war-zones and refugee crises, but is equally at home photographing supercomputers used to design military systems or the test-launching of nuclear missiles. Time’s layeredness in the landscape is an ongoing fascination of his.

His work has been widely recognised: he has won The Discovery Prize at Les Rencontres d'Arles in 2005; The Infinity Prize from The International Center of Photography in 2004; and he was winner of the European Publishing Award, 2002. In 2003 he was shortlisted for the Citibank Prize, now known as the Deutsche Börse Prize, and in 2013 he won the Prix Pictet Commission. He has won multiple World Press Photo and Sony World Photography awards.

Simon has produced four monographs of his work including Afghanistan: Chronotopia (2002) which was published in five languages; For Most Of It I Have No Words (1998) about the landscapes of genocide; and Bleed (2005) about the war in Bosnia. His most recent is Burke + Norfolk; Photographs from the War in Afghanistan (2011).

He has work held in major collections such as The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, The Getty in Los Angeles as well as San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Wilson Centre for Photography and the Sir Elton John Collection. His work has been shown widely and internationally from Brighton to Ulaanbaatar and in 2011 his Burke + Norfolk work was one of the first ever photography solo shows at Tate Modern in London. He has been described by one critic as “the leading documentary photographer of our time. Passionate, intelligent and political; there is no one working in photography that has his vision or his clarity.”

On episode 107, Simon discusses, among other things:

  • Why being married to a surgeon makes photography feel ‘really rather trivial’
  • Instagram and some of its young stars
  • Not wanting to do “any shite”
  • Climate change and his ‘pyrograph’ project on Mount Kenya
  • Why he went to Afghanistan in 2001
  • Why his work is ‘intensely English’
  • Why he left Oxford after his first year
  • How he made his famous balloon seller picture
  • Not seeing a future for himself in photography


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“There is a huge photography thing out there. It’s just that this rather narrow band of snobby, up its arse art photography has kind of wandered away from it. This used to be where the currency was, in The Photographer’s Gallery and in the prizes and the shows and stuff, and nowadays it’s become a sort of self-referential clusterfuck really.”

110 episodes available. A new episode about every 14 days averaging 75 mins duration .