A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Created in Conflict

Recently, the world’s attention has been directed towards the tragedy and chaos going on in Afghanistan. News of destruction, turmoil, disarray is lighting up our screens and becoming the topic of conversation for last few weeks. The reality is that reality itself overshadows the unfathomable situation taking place thousands of miles away. Life keeps on going and those words that were once lighting up your screens are simply replaced by new ones, deemed to be ‘more relevant’. I am also guilty of letting my own reality become the centre of my thoughts and forgetting the fortune that we have here in the UK.


Adam Dobby is a former SAS soldier and now uses his photographs to tell a visual story of the reality of war. After seeing these images, I was shocked on how naïve and self-centred I was being. I have become so impassive to the constant News headlines and forget the fact that people are struggling at the very moment I am writing this, and the very moment that you are reading this, fighting for their lives and freedom. I had the pleasure of meeting Adam, and he explained the situations that had occurred behind each photograph. One photo in particular called ‘Young Mother’ struck a personal chord. The ‘Young Mother’ depicted was of a toddler, around 4 years old, holding her baby brother in and amongst a crowd of people. This toddler was one of many who had escaped the grasp of ISIS after the Battle of Baghuz Fawqani, Syria. I have a 3-year-old sister, so whilst I was looking at this photo of this helpless child, I was faced with the idea that it could have been her staring back at me.


Another image which stuck with me was of a woman holding one of her pieces of art. The photograph was called ‘Mapping Her Escape’. Adam explained that he was drawn to her smile and that she explained that what she had drawn resembled that her children had drowned whilst crossing a narrow sea passage to Greece. What they had been promised was a land of hope and freedom, yet they were greeted with a camp of despair, which she represented as being encaged with barbed wire and a giant padlock.

Adam’s images reminded me that every time I open my phone and read those headlines, I click off and carry on with my day, omitting the fact that there are stories and faces behind the blue light of my screen. On Adam’s website he states that through these photos he has tried to capture emotion, fear, and confusion. ‘Dream Home’ was a photo of a young girl outside of her dismantled house in the razed city of Mosul. Adam met her family and out of the kindness of his heart brought them back to their home where subsequently the young girl ran to her detonated room and searched through the debris for her favourite toy which she proudly found. She stands there holding this toy in front of building highlighting the destruction and violence in which she has been subjected to. Her innocent gaze is now rooted within me, as I was thinking about how pleased and hopeful she seems holding her Dream House with the ironic reality of her once home, in which she stands, being yet another exploded building turned into rubble. Not a dream but a nightmare.


Next time you are skipping lines in a news report, scanning over the words written, just think about the faces behind those words. The picture that is not being shown.


Adam Dobby’s exhibition is really worth a visit and is currently located in Cheltenham at Sixteen Gallery but is moving to London at John Mitchell Fine Paintings, 12 October- 22 October.

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