Photo Portrait Project

Virtual exhibition about Afghan interpreters

'We Are Here, Because You Were There: Afghan Interpreters in the UK' documents experiences of Afghan interpreters, employed by the British Army who recently resettled to the UK, through portraiture and quotes. Centering Afghan interpreters’ own stories, photographer Andy Barnham and researcher Dr. Sara de Jong (University of York - also co-founder Sulha Alliance) invite viewers to engage with the people behind the headlines.

Visit the virtual exhibition created by Ffotogallery (Cardiff). 

Portraits from the project were winners in the portraiture category of the 2022 Prix de la Photographie, Paris (PX3), Tokyo International Foto Awards, the ND (Neutral Density) competition, Monochrome Awards, and nominated for the Prix Pictet: Human Cycle. 

“This project is a crucial reminder to the UK and international community not to forget the plight of millions of Afghans who have fled or remain stuck in Afghanistan and at risk. The UK government must live up to its promises and moral duties by ensuring that Afghans who supported the UK mission and their families as well as other at-risk Afghans are provided sanctuary and a safe route to the UK.”

Yasmine Ahmed · UK Director of Human Rights Watch

The art catalogue can be purchased here (minimum donation £10 with 100% of the proceeds going to the Sulha Alliance).

The catalogue presents the portraits and stories of 14 Afghan interpreters in England, Scotland and Wales, who arrived in the UK since the summer of 2021. 

A5 21 × 14.8 cm, 72 pages - Thread sewn binding allowing for book to lay flat and fully open - Hard bound. 

Past exhibitions:

Cardiff - Ffotogallery - 26th January - 25th March 2023

Leeds - Photo North Festival (screening) - 24 - 26 March 2023

London - Last Supper - 23 November 2022- 8 December 2022

Glasgow - Tramway - 13 October - 20 October 2022

Cambridge - The Cambridge Union - 25 October - 1 November 2022

'We Are Here, Because You Were There' encourages reflection on the deep entanglement between the UK and Afghanistan, which has shaped Afghan interpreters’ lives from childhood or early adulthood. Together their individual stories and images reflect the structural and lasting impact of Britain’s military intervention and migration policies. 

Photographer Andy Barnham has edited the portraits to help anonymise the interpreters still at risk and with family in Afghanistan under threat. The portraits presented are a composite of up to a dozen frames which have been blurred or pixelated and then overlaid to present a final image. This process can also be seen as inflicting trauma on the portraits, in acknowledgement of events experienced when serving with NATO forces and escaping Afghanistan. 

The quotes are selected from interviews conducted by Dr Sara de Jong (University of York), covering Afghan interpreters’ experiences of working for the British Armed Forces, their evacuation, and resettlement in the UK. While each quote represents the experience of an individual interpreter, together they tell a shared story of the Afghan interpreter community in the UK. 

We are grateful for the funding provided by Capita and the Department of Politics, University of York, to support this project. 

Photography and Design © Andy Barnham 2022

We are grateful for the funding provided by the University of York.