Magnum photographer Larry Towell presents a moving and in-depth look at the war-torn country in his 2014 publication 'Afghanistan'
"If there's one theme that connects all my work, I think it's that of landlessness; how land makes people into who they are and what happens to them when they lose it and thus lose their identities"
- Larry Towell
Larry Towell was born in rural Ontario in 1953. After studying visual arts at York University in Toronto from 1972–1976 and a stint of volunteer work in Calcutta, he lived in solitude on a homemade raft for two years in order to write.
In the 1980s Towell taught folk music at night school and simultaneously documented the Nicaraguan Contra war and the relatives of the disappeared in Guatemala which resulted in two oral histories and a book of poems. He joined Magnum in 1988 and became a freelance photographer.
In 1996, he completed a ten-year reportage on the war in El Salvador which was followed by two books on the Palestinians. The World From My Front Porch, a project on his family and his philosophy on land and landlessness, was published in 2008, followed by a ten-year project documenting Mennonite migrant workers in Mexico and Canada. The Mennonites, published in 2000 by Phaidon, won many accolades and was re-released by GOST in 2022.
His highly original book Afghanistan, a moving and in-depth look at a country crippled by conflict for decades, was published by Aperture in 2014. Towell’s coverage of historical events, human rights and conflict, complimented by personal projects, have appeared in many leading publications including The New York Times Magazine, Life Magazine, Rolling Stone, Geo, Stern, The Atlantic and The New Yorker, and has resulted in sixteen books plus several music projects and films.
Awards include World Press Photo of the Year, the Oskar Barnack, the inaugural Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eugene Smith, and the Prix Nadar among others. In 2020 he was named a Guggenheim Fellow. Towell is also a gifted musician and songwriter whose recordings include The Man I Left Behind, a set of three vinyl LPs of original ballads that focus on photography and the international issues he has documented. The collection was released in 2023 along with a feature-length documentary film of the same name. The History War, a book documenting the evolution of war in Ukraine will also be published by GOST in 2023.
He has had numerous international exhibitions throughout his career and his work is held in collections that include The Getty, The National Gallery of Canada, The George Eastman House, the National Museum of Qatar and The Archive of Modern Conflict in UK.