Bran Symondson is considered to be one of the finest reportage photographers of the 21st Century. He began his career working alongside renowned photographers such as Gavin Bond, David La Chapelle and Nadav Kander. During this period he joined the UK Special Forces and was immediately called up for a tour in Afghanistan. He documented his life-changing experiences under gunfire with a simple Canon G9 camera, these significant images culminated in his first show “The Best View of Heaven is from Hell”.
It was during his last tour of duty training the Afghan National Police (ANP), which now patrols this province, that Symondson became fascinated with the force’s distinctive ethos. So he returned as a civilian photographer “embedded” with them to document something far more unique than the endless fields of opium.
As the photographs were taken whilst he was a serving soldier with the Special Forces the Ministry of Defence banned this exhibition, however, it was not long until The Sunday Times decided to commission him to go back to Afghanistan and re-shoot the images as a civilian photographer. After being awarded the 2011 Amnesty International Media Award for his photograph “Lost Boys”, Symondson decided to develop the concept of his photographs further and he began work on the sell-out show “AKA Peace”.
Picture by Geoff Pugh
'Peace One Day' at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, London.
Bran Symondson’s 2012 exhibition “AKA Peace” is considered to be a pivotal point in his artistic career. After his tour in Afghanistan, he established the concept of taking de-commissioned AK47 guns and masterfully embellishing them with dollar bills, iconography & butterflies. He gave decommissioned AK47’s to artists such as Damien Hirst, Gavin Turk, Sam Taylor-Wood, Sarah Lucas, Gary Hume, Antony Gormley and the Chapman brothers and asked them to reinterpret their own AK-47 assault rifles which were all exhibited in “AKA Peace”. This critically acclaimed show raised more than £430,000 in one night.
Symondson’s unique artworks of contemporary AK47 derive from a simple premise: taking something of fear and loathing and turning it into something of beauty and intrigue. Each AK47 has a narrative which is told through the meticulous craftsmanship of adorning the weapon with various objects which then is enhanced with the placement of bespoke handmade bullets containing different commodities which relate to the narrative of each work.
His pieces have been bought and collected internationally from the highly acclaimed artist Jake Chapman through to Elton John and the Prince of Bahrain.
Bran is also known for his philanthropic work not only in heightening the awareness of worldwide issues through his photographs but also raising money for different charities through the donation of his AK47’s at charity art auctions. To date, he has raised more than £580,000 through his contributions.
Bran’s last show was an amazing collaboration with the world-renowned photographer Terry O’Neill CBE. The body of works entitled “Hollywood Re-Loaded” were unveiled in September 2019. Bran came up with the concept of shooting photographs of famous actors and actresses with the same weapon portrayed in the film they starred in. Bran took the modelled weapon which was featured in the same photograph taken by O’Neill and then shot 11 iconic images creating bullet holes in the images.
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National Portrait Gallery (Portrait awards), London
Best View of Heaven is from Hell, 2011, London
AKA Peace 2012, London
Sunday Times 50 Years of Front Covers, Saatchi Gallery, London
Stations of the Cross (Group Exhibition), 2014, London
Art Wars (Group Exhibition), Saatchi Gallery, London
David Bowie Tribute Exhibition, 2016, London
Texas Exhibition, 2016, USA
House of Fine Art, (Group Exhibition), 2017, London
Maddox Gallery (Group Exhibition), 2018, London
Best of British, (Group Exhibition), Maddox Gallery Los Angeles, 2018, USA
House of Fine Art (Group Exhibition), 2019, Mykonos