In April 2014, Robert Wilson travelled to Afghanistan to record the withdrawal of British troops. This project is the result...

The site specific billboard exhibition is now over, but a wider edit of the Helmand Return work is now on show at Gallery One and a Half in London until the 30th of November. 


The site-specific exhibition showcased a selection of photographs taken on Wilson’s recent trip to Afghanistan, and documented the British troops' final tour of duty and homecoming preparations. As an official war artist, Wilson was granted unprecedented access to the personnel and logistical operations surrounding the drawdown in Afghanistan, allowing a rare insight into the process of ending war. These images offer a uniquely beautiful perspective on a much documented conflict with many never before recorded sights both on and off base. 

With funding from Arts Council England, we secured 59 billboard and poster sites across England and Scotland to showcase the work. The outdoor show has been followed by an exhibition at Gallery One and a Half, featuring an extended edit of the imagery. 

Each billboard’s location was determined by the biographical data gathered from the returning troops, allowing the outdoor exhibition to be both a literal and metaphorical return home. This pop-up approach saw images of individual military personnel infiltrate the communities most affected by the Afghan war, and encouraged active engagement with the conflict by juxtaposing familiar everyday locations such as a local Royal Mail depot with the Post Office in Camp Bastian, or a fortified bus stop in Kandahar appearing alongside a bus stop in Bristol. 

It is easy to think of wars as happening 'elsewhere' and to 'other people', but this project has aimed to highlight the toll that this war has taken in a relevant but unsentimental way, bringing the exhibition to the people, rather than the people to the exhibition.

In a year of retrospective imagery surrounding the centenary of WWI, these images have provided a fresh perspective within the traditions of conflict photography.

The outdoor was been made possible with the support of the Arts Council England, the MoD, Posterscope, Gallery One and a Half, and our outdoor media partners.

All photography by Robert Wilson - You can now browse the images in this project, and see images of the billboards in situ in our user galleries:


Find out about the project, Robert Wilson, and the background to his 2014 trip. 

Get involved

If you have photographed on of our billboards in situ, get involved by uploading your image to add to our galleries.