"From the bright flower fields in Afghanistan, to the concrete jungle of London, Poppy traces the international path of heroin production and distribution. Picturing the dark and complex side of globalisation, Poppy exposes the contexts and consequences of heroin’s journey from East to West, along with the addictions, conflicts, disease, crime and poverty it leaves in its wake. The book and multimedia exhibition embody two decades worth of reporting from Antoinette de Jong and Robert Knoth.
The journey from East to West
What began in the early 1990s as a series of news assignments, evolved into a personal project and close collaboration between Knoth and De Jong. Their journey begins in Afghanistan, tracks through Central Asia, the Balkans, Dubai, Somalia and ends in London. This modern trade route, a dark version of the ancient Silk Road, comes alive through the voices, faces and stories of farmers, soldiers, smugglers, prisoners, bankers, prostitutes, addicts and border guards.These stories are easily overlooked or bypassed as too complex for mainstream media. For De Jong and Knoth however, they were key components of their in-depth investigation.
Robert Knoth and Antoinette de Jong documented the trails of Afghan heroin for two decades, covering the rise of the Taliban, the American intervention after September 9/11 and the recent surge in opium production. The images and texts in the publication and the audiovisual installation reveal a dark side of globalisation, as reflected in the faces of smugglers, prisoners, prostitutes, border guards, children and farmers. With stunning landscapes along the trails as well as what have now become historic pictures of the Afghan civil war, this publication is a richly illustrated journey—supplemented by facts, stories, and quotations. Beginning in Afghanistan, it moves across Central Asia, Russia, and the Balkans to East Africa, Dubai, and into western Europe, where the poppy trail brings us to the streets of London.
As such Poppy uncovers the relationship between ‘far-away’ places such as Kandahar, Bishkek and Tirana, and the day-to-day events in our own neighbourhoods, such as street crime, drug addiction and even terrorism. By connecting the dots, Knoth and De Jong disclose the ever more complex patterns of our globalised world. While we all welcome the virtues and advantages of an open society, Poppy tells a different story: of a world facing destabilisation as a result of multiple threats. Drugs, armed conflict, international crime, chronic poverty, and the spread of hiv/aids; Poppy shows how closely they are all intertwined.
Innovative presentation as book and installation
As Poppy evolved to illuminate the network of heroin’s cultivation and distribution across the globe, it outgrew conventional and short form journalistic formats - necessitating its own, more immersive experience. The four screen multimedia installation created by Peter Claassen, who was responsible for the concept and the editing, and the soundscape created by Mark Glynne, combines still and moving imagery, sound bites from radio reports, quotes originating from official reports and news, and excerpt from youtube, and thus creating a cinematic experience for the visitor. Jeroen Kummer and Arthur Hermann designed the 492 pages thick book by weaving images and text together, not pulled back by traditionally views into a raw stream of stories shaking the readers mind. Connecting the dots between supply and demand, between us standing here in Europe and the locations and conflicts that can seem so distant on news reports, the complexity and global scale of Poppy mean that it is a story which is not simple to tell, but one that matters to us all.
International reviewers on book and exhibition:
"Poppy works a kind of magic. It is not a news report or a compilation. Rather, the authors tell a complex story, and their insight, gained from decades of traveling opium’s routes, enables us to glimpse the poppy economy and its causes in surprising detail. Immerse yourself in this book and you will emerge believing the world to be a very different place than it was before Robert Knoth and Antoinette de Jong led you on Poppy: Trails of Afghan Heroin." (rated 9.5, Paul Loomis, American Suburb X )
"This project catapults us with full force in the globalized presence, about this book there was no discussion, it is a class of its own, very modern in shape, very relevant in content, very thorough in the handling of this theme, this is a brilliant book." (Golden Medal at the Deutscher Fotobuchpreis, Jury report)
"It sets Poppy upon a pedestal of immense photographic, journalistic and design achievement. (...) I stated when I first saw the book that it re-affirmed my belief in the power of publishing photojournalism. I have no doubt that it is my book of the year and a project that will be highly valued for decades to come." (Jon Levy, Foto8)
"With its very smart presentation and the quality of the photography and the writing, this book is setting a new benchmark for the photojournalistic photobook. Highly recommended." (Jorg Colberg, Conscientious)
“Those who wish to comprehend how our own security in a broader sense is connected with the fragility of other states and how events far removed from our state borders are having effect and how heroin is working as a catalyst, should not miss Poppy." (Lieutenant Colonel Allard Wagemaker, Royal Netherlands Marine Corps)
"The idea behind this project is ambitious, the way they have presented the project deserves nothing but praise. It takes time to construct the sum of all parts, but it is worth the effort. Poppy offers us a rare insight in today's world and of 'the dark side of globalisation' as Knoth and De Jong like to call it." (Han Schoonhoven, PhotoQ)
Book: Deutscher Fotobuchpreis 2013 - Gold Medal, Kees Scherer Award for best Dutch photo book 2011-2012 - Nominated
Canon Zilveren Camera Award 2012 - 1st prize, New York Photo Festival 2012, Multimedia - Finalist, Lens Culture Award 2012 - Honourable Mention
Book & Installation: Dutch Doc Award 2013 - shortlisted
"Poppy Trail – die ehemalige Seidenstraße als heutige Drogenroute zwischen Ost und West im Porträt - Die Seidenstraße verbindet seit jeher Ostasien mit dem Westen und war einst ein berühmter Handelsweg, über den nicht nur Güter, sondern auch Religionen und Kulturen ausgetauscht wurden. Heute ist die Trasse über weite Strecken tot, in Elend verkommen und wird als Drogenroute genutzt. Robert Knoth (*1963) und Antoinette de Jong (*1964) haben diese sogenannte Poppy Trail über zwei Jahrzehnte dokumentiert, die durch die amerikanische Besatzung in Afghanistan nach dem 11. September 2001 und den Anstieg der afghanischen Opiumproduktion geprägt sind. Die Aufnahmen zeigen die Schattenseiten der Globalisierung, die sich in den Gesichtern von Schmugglern, Gefangenen, Prostituierten, Grenzsoldaten und Polizisten spiegeln. Die Publikation zeichnet – ergänzt durch Fakten, Zitate und Geschichten – eine Reise nach, die von Afghanistan über Zentralasien, Russland und den Balkan nach Ostafrika, Dubai und Westeuropa führt und sich in den Straßen von London verliert." (publisher's note)
'Deutscher Fotobuchpreis 2013' in Gold - Nominiert für den 'Kees Scherer Award for best Dutch photo book 2011-2012' - 'Canon Zilveren Camera Award 2012' - Finalrunde 'New York Photo Festival 2012, Multimedia' - Besondere Hervorhebung: 'Lens Culture Award 2012' - Shortlisted für den 'Dutch Doc Award 2013' (Buch & Installation)