Snapshots of power through five photographers’ lenses
From police brutality to authoritarian regimes, and from forced migration to a nation gripped by paranoia, this handful of photographers have explored a few of the ways in which power can is wielded, implemented, used and abused.
In 2013, Greek police officers faced uproar when they released a doctored photograph of a 20-year-old man who had sustained severe injury while in custody. Nikos Romanos suffered brutal beatings, evidence of which was then removed in official photographs released to the public.
Japanese photographer Satoshi Fujiwara became fascinated by this story, and later similar attempts by U.S. police forces to cover up their crimes against civilians. In response, he created his own altered scenes — a series titled #R, #police, #cover_up. #demonstrations, #brutality — documenting peaceful interactions between civilians and police, which he cropped or digitally manipulated to provide an alternative, more violent narrative.
In a world in which post-truth politics is increasingly normalised, Fujiwara’s images ask pressing questions about the media sources we should trust — and those we shouldn’t.
“In the mountains of Darfur, Sudan, women and children hide in caves to escape ground attacks and aerial bombardment by their own government’s forces,” says Adriane Ohanesian, an American photographer working for Reuters in the region.
“President Omar al Bashir continues to wage a war against the rebel groups and civilians of Darfur. As many as three million people have been displaced, and nearly half a million lives have been lost in the conflict.”
“In the last year, over 600,000 people have fled their homes, due mainly to the violent government offensives. The international community has declared genocide in Darfur as the government’s brutal campaign quietly enters its twelfth year.”
Ohanesian’s photographs were captured during a two-week trip in 2015, during which she gained access to the rebel controlled Jebel Marra, at the heart of Darfur’s conflict. Al Bashir’s regime prevent journalists, aid workers and NGOs from travelling in Darfur and reporting back first-hand accounts of the atrocities they’ve seen. As a result Ohanesian offers a rare snapshot inside a nation in the grip of abusive totalitarian power.
Gentrification In Bushwick
Gentrification is one of the quieter methods by which an authority can exert power on a populace, slowly but surely encouraging the migration of a community by pricing them out of an area, no matter how long they’ve been residents. It’s a phenomenon we’ve seen happening in cities across the western world—London, Berlin, New York and many others face ongoing struggles.
In New York in the second half of the 20th century, the Bushwick neighbourhood played host to a large population of hispanic immigrants whose sense of family and community defined the area.
“In the early 2000′s the Bushwick Initiative began,” says photographer Daniel Zvereff, “with the city and state pouring resources into revitalizing the area. From sanitation, commercial revitalization, and housing improvements, Bushwick began to experience rapid growth.”
“There is a stark contrast between the residents of Stanhope in Brooklyn: half being affluent or middle-class students and professionals that commute to the city, myself included, who typically live no more than two years in the neighborhood, resulting in a assembly line of people always moving in and moving out; the other half are a dwindling number of local residents, whose story began to unfold the more time I spent enjoying cognac on the sidewalk with them.”
The Death of a Leader
For many Cubans, Fidel Castro was the only leader they had ever known, but his death did nothing to ease the fear of state sponsored surveillance and distrust of fellow citizens, photographer Rémy Soubanère explains.
“November 2016, La Havana, just after Fidel Castro’s death. Nine days of national grief were announced. Administrations and state services remained closed, alcohol sale was forbidden.”
“A shockingly high number of Cubans are part of the country’s extensive secret services. Without knowing who’s who, you have to be careful of everybody: your neighbor, your friend, your uncle. You never know who’s watching or who’s listening.”
“In these days of grief it’s better to stay at home, mouth shut, with visible sadness.”
Living With the Enemy
“When the War on Terror began in the Middle East,” explains Salwan Georges, “many families fled their country in search of safety and looked to rebuild their lives in the United States. Lives that once were haunted by the sound of bombings, and where dodging missiles was a daily occurrence, were now facing different trials in a foreign land.”
Many of these refugees settled in the area of metro Detroit, particularly in the city of Dearborn. Plagued by industrial and economic turmoil, the city offers little in the way of financial security or reliable infrastructure upon which refugee communities can rebuild their lives, and after 13 years of conflict, there it still little opportunity or reason to return home.