Antionette de Jong and Robert Knoth


Poppy. Trails of Afghan Heroin


24.10. - 20.12.2016


For over twenty years Antoinette de Jong and Robert Knoth have followed the trail of the heroin trade from Afghanistan to Europe. Their travels lead them to Pakistan, Tajikistan , Kyrgyzstan and Russia, to Asia Minor, the Balkans, Dubai and Somalia, the Netherlands, and finally England. The result was the project Poppy - Trails of Afghan Heroin which impressively documents the dark side of globalisation. The contexts they found are upsetting: wars, prostitution and an epidemic spread of AIDS, the desperate fight of anti-drug police forces against unscrupulous drug traffickers, brutal gang feuds, money laundering, corruption, drug deals and addicts.


In the 1980s opium and heroin were trafficked for weapons in the battle against the Soviets in Afghanistan. After the withdrawal of the Soviets in the early 1990s, a bloody civil war followed in the course of which the cultivation of poppy increased sharply. Today the country produces 90% of all opium in the world. Annually over 50 billion dollars are earned with the heroin trade. Worldwide over 15 million people consume opiates and every year 100,000 people die as a consequence of heroin use.


Given the complexity of the subject Robert Knoth and Antoinette de Jong were confronted with the challenge to find an appropriate aesthetic. Therefore, they experimented with non-linear forms of story-telling and integrated the media of photography into more dynamic techniques like video and multi-screen projections.


The exhibition at the Forum für Fotografie brings together these different dynamics of the project, through presenting a combination of selected photographic prints, video works and not least, the photo book itself. Only the interweaving of different aesthetic approaches can capture the overwhelming variety of heterogeneous materials and information, combining it into one immersive pictorial language. The viewer is drawn into the flow between information and images, accumulating into something as fascinating as it is frightening.


The installation Poppy provides a kaleidoscopic impression, illustrating the chaos, urgency and elusiveness of what takes place along the route. For the audience it evokes a sense of being submerged into multi-layered or parallel worlds where different events and developments are related and interconnected, forcing viewers to reposition themselves again and again.


Robert Knoth, born 1963 in Rotterdam, is an internationally renowned documentary photographer. In the 1990s he gained recognition for his freelance work in many conflict areas in Africa, Asia, and in the Balkans. During the last years he shifted his focus on long term projects and complex subjects. His work was published in numerous international newspapers and magazines like New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel and was shown world wide in many solo exhibitions. During his career he received many awards, among them Deutscher Fotobuchpreis 2013, twice the World Press Photo (2000 and 2006) and several times the Dutch Silver Camera Award.


Antoinette de Jong, born 1964 in Tilburg, is a fotographer, writer and broadcaster, based in the Netherlands. She has worked in many conflict areas including Somalia, Iraq, For- mer Yugoslavia. Her work includes in depth reporting and documentaries, among them many for the BBC World Service and Radio Netherland World Service. Her work has covered developments in Afghanistan and Pakistan for almost two decades. Her work was published in numerous international newspapers and magazines.


This exhibition was produced by Paradox ( and will be presented in collaboration with the Society for Humanistic Photography ( The project is supported by the Mondriaan Fund.