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Toy Soldiers | Simon Brann Thorpe | Via

Simon Brann Thorpe’s images are strange and startling. The photographer takes real soldiers and poses them as plastic army men in the desert of Western Sahara. Toy Soldiers is a unique look at a conflicted region, and acts as a metaphor for the desensitized way people sometimes consume war coverage.

“[My goal is] to visually arrest a viewer via the blurring of boundaries between what is real and what is not,” Thorpe writes. “To inspire engagement through a fresh approach to the depictions of conflict that we [the audience] have become so numb to.”

Located in northwest Africa, Western Sahara is the source of an ongoing dispute between the Polisario Front and Morocco since the 1970s. Today, UN peacekeeping forces monitor a cease-fire, but resolution is nowhere in sight. Thorpe collaborated with Polisario Front soldiers over a period of five weeks. The project, soon to be a released as a photo book, corresponds with the 40th anniversary of the conflict.