A unique and thought provoking photographic exhibition held by The Royal British Legion over the period of the Poppy Appeal, gives an original view of what life is like in Afghanistan for female soldiers. Shot by photojournalist Alison Baskerville earlier this year, the images highlight how women, both British and Afghan, respond to the often austere conditions in which they find themselves and how they maintain their morale and individuality in the face of demanding circumstances. The images focus mainly on the life of the British Army’s Female Engagement Officers (FEOs) who work to build relationships with Afghan women in some of the most dangerous parts of Helmand. As interaction between women and male soldiers is strictly forbidden in these small communities, the FEOs are drawn from female volunteers from across the army who receive specialist cultural and language training to enable them to carry out their role.
The exhibition is titled ‘The White Picture’ after the term used to describe the effect that they contribute to by gathering information for the wider intelligence picture, which sits outside the usual military objectives but is vital in the battle for hearts and minds. It opens on the 25 October and runs until 11 November at gallery@oxo on the South Bank.
Alison Baskerville is an award winning photojournalist. She served with the Royal Air Force for 12 years, during which time she saw active service in Northern Ireland and Iraq. Whilst in Iraq, Alison was inspired to capture her surroundings on an old Nikon camera. This gave her the motivation to leave the RAF and train as a photojournalist. In 2011, the Territorial Army called on Alison’s professional military and photographic skills. She was deployed to Afghanistan as a Territorial Army photographer where she served with the Defence Combat Camera Team for six months. Her work from this tour won awards for Best Operational Image and Best Portrait in the professional category of the 2011 British Army Photographic Competition. Her experience and skills made her the immediate choice when The Royal British Legion looked for a volunteer to travel to Afghanistan to document women’s lives on the front line. Asked about her photography she explains “With my pictures, I wanted to show an alternative view of what life is like for women on operations in Afghanistan. I didn’t want to show them as exceptional or different from the men they are working alongside, but to give an understanding of the difficulties they face in doing their job and how they respond to their surroundings and environment.” More of her pictures can be found at her website http://www.alisonbaskerville.co.uk/
The Royal British Legion stands shoulder to shoulder with all who serve. It is the nation's leading Armed Forces charity providing care and support to all members of the British Armed Forces past and present and their families. It is also the national Custodian of Remembrance and safeguards the Military Covenant between the nation and its Armed Forces. It is best known for the annual Poppy Appeal and its emblem, the red poppy. www.britishlegion.org.uk