Robert Knoth started his career in the 1990s, and since 2001 has worked as an independent photographer, pursuing mainly long-term photo documentaries. Robert's work shows the complexity of various social-economic or political issues and their effects on the daily life of ordinary people. He has covered major conflict or aftermath in Africa, Asia and the Balkans. Using powerful attention to detail, his portraiture and documentary work has received international acclaim including two World Press Photo awards, the Prague Photo Prize, the American PDN awards and multiple Dutch Silver Camera awards.
The project Certificate no. 000358/, a photo book and exhibition about the long-term effects of four major nuclear disasters in the former Soviet Union, has won much international attention. The work has been shown in more than 70 places around the world, including the Moscow House of Photography, Place Des Arts in Montreal, Oxo Gallery in London, Museum for Contemporary Art in Kiev and the International Photo Festival in Ping Yao.
With his wife Antoinette de Jong, he is currently working on a project documenting the impact of Afghan heroin in countries along the most trafficked routes from Afghanistan to Europe. The project is supported by the Sem Presser Fund and the Dutch Foundation for Democracy and Media.
Back to Square One
In the summer of 2001, only months before 9/11, photographer Robert Knoth and writer Antoinette de Jong travelled on horseback for weeks around the remote areas of Northern Afghanistan, where the population was suffering from severe drought over many years.
Eighty percent of men and elder boys escaped through the dangerous frontlines in search of food for their families and for work in Kabul or even Iran and Pakistan. Left behind in the villages were mainly the elderly, the women and children.
In 2009 they revisited the same district of Shahr-e-Bozorg to find the families they met eight years earlier. Rural rehabilitation programmes made a huge impact on the lives of the villagers, though much of the hard work done in recent years was destroyed as Afghanistan was hit by extreme storms, rainfall and flooding. Houses and schools collapsed, roads were disrupted or completely disappeared by landslides, drinking water systems were polluted and destroyed.
Climate change and overpopulation are causing erosion and the collapse of livelihoods of many rural Afghans. Overgrazing is depleting meadows and agricultural lands, making these ever more vulnerable to the changing climate and increasingly extreme weather in the Hindu Kush-Himalayas mountain range.
Scarcity of water and land are already known to be the main causes for conflicts in Afghanistan. More pressure on these limited resources threatens future stability and may further disrupt whatever fragile peace remains.