The Pretend Villages

Photographs by Christopher Sims


October 23, 2021February 27, 2022

Location: Rubenstein Library Photography Gallery

Artist: Christopher Sims

In this exhibit, The Pretend Villages documents the inhabitants and structures of imagined, fabricated Iraqi and Afghan villages on the training grounds of U.S. military bases. Situated in the deep forests of North Carolina and Louisiana and in a great expanse of desert near Death Valley in California, these villages serve as strange and poignant way stations for soldiers headed off to war, and for those who have fled from it: American troops encounter actors, often recent immigrants from Iraq and Afghanistan, who are paid to be “cultural role players.” Christopher Sims photographed in these surprising and fantastical realms from 2005 to 2018 as U.S. wars abroad fluctuated in intensity. With this book, he presents an archival record of “enemy” village life that is as convincingly accurate and comically misdirected as it is mundane and nightmarish.

Christopher Sims is an Associate Professor of the Practice in the Sanford School of Public Policy and the Undergraduate Education Director at the Center for Documentary Studies.

EVENT: 6PM, November 4, 2021, Artist talk and gallery viewing, Rubenstein Library Photography Gallery and Perkins Library Room 217