Andy Barnham and Sara de Jong: We Are Here, Because You Were There © Andy Barnham; Quote © Sara de Jong


We Are Here, Because You Were There: Afghan Interpreters in the UK is a collaborative project by photographer Andy Barnham and researcher Sara de Jong, which documents the experiences of Afghan interpreters who were employed by the British Army in Afghanistan between 2004 and 2021, and resettled to the UK in 2021. This exhibition tells the interpreters’ experiences of employment and resettlement through portraiture and quotes, photographs from Afghanistan, and sound.

We Are Here, Because You Were There centres Afghan interpreters’ own stories and invites viewers to engage with the individuals, their families and the human stories behind the headlines. These stories and images are Barnham and de Jong’s attempt to bring to life the structural and lasting impact of Britain’s foreign policy, military practices, and immigration policies. Starting with the British Empire’s colonial intervention in Afghanistan, the exhibition also shows a timeline of Anglo-Afghan relations, which reflects on the historical and present entanglements between the two countries.

Each portrait in the exhibition is a composite of up to a dozen frames overlaid to present a final portrait, to represent the subject’s changing states of mind. Using strategies of blurring and pixelating, photographer and British Army veteran Andy Barnham has further edited portraits of Afghan interpreters to help anonymise them, as they are still considered at risk and have family in Afghanistan under threat.

The quotes are extracts from in-depth interviews with the Afghan interpreters conducted by Sara de Jong. The testimonies cover the interpreters’ motivations for working with the British Armed Forces, their experiences on the frontline of war, and the threats they faced in Afghanistan. The statements also address their evacuation, their early experiences in the UK, and hopes for the future for themselves and their families. Additional interview extracts are presented in a sound piece that runs throughout the gallery, bringing the voices of the interpreters to life.

While the images and quotes represent the individual stories of Afghan interpreters who took part in the portrait and interview sessions, they speak to the collective experiences of the larger community of Afghan former interpreters in the UK.

The exhibition also premieres five portraits of key veteran activists who, through a sense of moral duty to the Afghan interpreters they worked alongside, have become political advocates for the protection and rights of their former colleagues. 

Additional photographs of NATO soldiers in Afghanistan taken by Andy Barnham when he served as a Farsi military interpreter in 2006, and as a mentor to the Afghan National Army supported by a local Afghan interpreter in 2008. They offer a diaristic insider perspective on military operations deployed by NATO forces in Afghanistan, and their inclusion completes the title We Are Here, Because You Were There, indicating the reason why the Afghan refugees are here in the first place.

We Are Here Because You Were There has been co-produced by Andy Barnham and Sara de Jong with the support of Ffotogallery, the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of York and Sulha Alliance.

Image © Andy Barnham

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Andy Barnham And Sara De Jong: We Are Here, Because You Were There

Type:Art Exhibition

Impressions Gallery, Centenary Square, Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD1 1SD
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Tel01274 737843

Opening Times

Season (16 Feb 2024 - 4 May 2024)
Tuesday - Saturday10:00 - 17:00

* Sun: Closed
Mon: Closed

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