Toy Soldiers? - Look Again


Hall of Famer
Nov 12, 2010
Interesting images, but his explanation does have something of that "artist speak" about it, and to be honest I don't quite see how the images would
"enable the creation of a visual metaphor from which a viewer develops their own emotional, physical and political response to war and conflict, when faced with the realization that the images do not contain toy soldiers but real soldiers."
Glad to see a little attention go to the Western Sahara though, one of the most forgotten conflicts in the world.

RT Panther

Dec 25, 2012
Interesting images, but his explanation does have something of that "artist speak" about it, and to be honest I don't quite see how the images would
I believe what's being said is that playing "war" with plastic pieces becomes different when you realize that those pieces of plastic are actually people.


Hall of Famer
Mar 27, 2013
I didn't expect to like this .. but I think its terrific
especially like a couple of them ie the shot soldier & the long line


Hall of Famer
Nov 12, 2010
Thanks, RT! That made a whole lot more sense to me than the quote in the article.

I think with much of today's art having the goal (or expectation) to lead the public to reflect on something in society, it can be quite difficult to bring across the artist's intention or concept clearly enouch without resorting to a tired old cliché, especially with a medium as literal as photography. That can often lead to some concepts that really don't make any sense without an explanation. I'm not necessarily opposed to explanations, but I do think that if the public can figure out the message or feeling on its own, the impact of the artwork will be bigger.

In this particular case, I think the photographer did quite a good job by using something many of us played with and showing the relation to real life (it's just the pompous speak that actually put me off track).

The questions he asks regarding desensitization to war images are important ones, as the media portrayal of conflicts is often the only reason we know, and hopefully care, about what happens to people in conflict zones. By relating real soldiers to our own experience of playing with them, I think he goes some way towards bringing "conflict photos" back to our own world, although I feel the concept could've been taken further, and could drive the message home stronger. As much as I appreciate him bringing the Western Sahara conflict back in the spotlight a little bit, I think the very invisibility and lack of current fighting mean that the images are not as gripping as they could be; imagine placing this concept in an active (or recently active) war zone (Syria, or Ukraine) and getting actual soldiers from opposing sides to pose as opposing armies of toy soldiers, with "toy civilians" being thrown in the mix. Much more difficult to set up, of course, but I'm sure it would grip people even more than this series does.

I'd like to draw your attention to an earlier series the photographer did on the Western Sahara:

the opening photo in particular is beautiful, otherworldly and jarring in equal measure.

To give some context: in the Western Sahara conflict, all parties laid minefields, with the Moroccan government laying the most. Nobody is really sure where all the mines are anymore. This leaves large parts of the desert, even outside of the area that Morocco controls, very dangerous. As the Saharawi are traditionally nomadic herders, who need to move around, this has made living the traditional way of life impossible in much of the Western Sahara; most locals fled to camps in Algeria. You can also see just how impossibly empty this corner of the desert is; there's little benefit to controlling it, apart from the prestige of owning lots of land. Hardly worth ruining so many people's lives and an ancient culture, you'd think, but there ya go.

[edit 2]
In case anyone's interested in my own experiences in the Western Sahara, see:
and the first part of
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