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I just wrote, for Vantage a review titled The Portraits In This Book Are Only Visible When You Hold It In Your Hands of Carina Hesper’s yet-to-be-made book, Like a Pearl In My Hand.

The book is printed with thermochromatic ink (yes, the same stuff used to make 90s Generra Hypercolour Tshirts) and so it changes from pitch black in a resting state to emerging portraits of blind Chinese orphans the next.

I’ve never seen anything like it. Of course, the book hasn’t made full production yet, so I’ve not held on in my hands, but the dummy and the vids look impressive.

The degrees to which Like a Pearl In My Hand plays with metaphor and reconfigures our use of sight and touch further distinguishes Hesper’s book.

Disability is a hidden problem. Blindness prevents sight. By literal description or by strategic manipulation, everyone is in the dark. But when sight is denied, other senses compensate. Hesper plays with this truth.

Hesper is currently raising Kickstarter funds to get the project into book form (it’s already shown at numerous festivals as single prints on the wall.)

Read my review in full and see more pictures: The Portraits In This Book Are Only Visible When You Hold It In Your Hands.

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I’m being facetious of course. Playful, yes. And earnest, oh yes.

Love the Hurford Center for Arts and Humanities (HCAH). Over at HCAH, they’ve got Matthew Callinan the hardest working man in the Greater Philadelphia area and the fellow who gave me my big break.


Callinan, the campus exhibitions coordinator at Haverford College, builds four shows every year, from the ground up. He’s interested not in the big names per se but the emerging ideas of curators, artists and collectives who’ll connect Haverford students to the world as it is now.

And there’s a good amount there for photo-lovers, too. For example, the recent The Past is a Foreign Country a solo show for François-Xavier Gbré and Possible Cities, curated by Ruti Talmor including the work of photographers Sammy Baloji, Pieter Hugo, Salem Mekuria, Sabelo Mlangeni, Guy Tillim and IngridMwangiRobertHutter.

Check out the archive. There’s Zoe Strauss and Hank Willis Thomas, too.

Oh, and how could I miss the current show?!?! The Wall In Our Heads is a themed show about the Berlin Wall, curated by the legendary Paul M Farber who has written extensively on the TV show, The Wire. Do not miss Farber’s paper The Last Rites of D’Angelo Barksdale: The Life and Afterlife of Photography In The Wire.

How better to follow this hotbed of innovation than through the Instah?


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Photographer Tony Fouhse photographed his hometown of Ottawa. Then he made a newspaper of his images and gave all 2,000 of them away for free. The project is called Official Ottawa.

I dig Fouhse’s images of politics, power, pomp and circumstance in Canada’s capital. The concept was great, the execution fine and the distribution in cafes and at truck-stops brings a smile to my face.


I interviewed Tony about the project for Vantage in a piece titled Control and Containment in the Canadian Capital.

About Ottawa, Fouhse says:

“There is a kind of pervasive fear that percolates through the city. Not a fear of getting mugged or anything, rather, a fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. Workers here seem to know which side of their bread is buttered and who is buttering it; they certainly wouldn’t want to put their pensions at risk. An atmosphere like that dampers a lot of healthy thinking and questioning and certainly precludes action.”

Read Control and Containment in the Canadian Capital.

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02-west block

04-National Firefighters Memorial Service


06-special event

07-Govt signage

09-Parliament Hill with Leopard tank


11-P Hill security checkpoint



Geekfest,a gathering of a motley bunch of photographers young and old begins tonight in Oakland.

Above is an early flier. Below is the full line-up. I’m speaking in the final spot on Sunday afternoon. I still have no idea what I’ll do or speak about. Really. I think the organisers think I’m joking but, nope, totally undecided.


You gotta love Martin Kollar. He just won the 2015 Prix Elysée. I was cheering for Mari Bastashevski, but I can’t complain with the ultimate choice of Kollar. His work is dark and hilarious. Kollar freezes awkward. In his world, military men are less heroic, stunt men are suicide cases, and practice makes imperfect. Is this shit even real?

Kollar travels through research labs, checkpoints, sports events, training scenarios, parliaments, dentists, barrios and wheat fields. He isolates people from context and time to create solitary and uncanny moments. The list of photographers interested in documenting simulation and facade is long — Lisa Barnard, Paul Shambroom, Yann Mingard, Richard Barnes, Max Pinckers, An-My Lê to name a few — so it is a little surprising Kollar’s work stands out for me and truly strikes a chord. I reckon this is because his work is consistently good. And by good, I mean convincing. I am convinced he has looked really hard to find these scenes. I am convinced he is a good editor, or has good editors around him. I am convinced of his skill because it’s hard to make this look so easy. Check out his notebooks.

Photography is “an intermediary stage, a kind of transitional memory between two times” says Kollar who, according to the Prix Elysée, “belongs to the temporary generation, moving from job to job, from apartment to apartment, relationship to relationship.”




Originally from Slovakia, Kollar’s projects build upon ideas from the previous. He constructs huge stepping stones and jumps from one to the next when he feels he’s considered the ideas central to each project from all angles. “Then the next idea comes, which usually corrects the previous one,” he says. “My projects are generally linked to limited territories and spaces, whether it be Eastern Europe, the European Parliament or Israel.”

Kollar’s photographs evoke a certain amount of wandering and wondering. For Prix Elysée, Kollar took a geographically unspecific overview.

Provisional Arrangement, conceived in the spirit of a road movie, aims to capture those moments when the permanent becomes provisional,” says Prix Elysée.

Again, not an easy task. To locate and understand the gaps you’ve got to have a good grasp on what the formed and formal landscape of knowledge is for a places … or in Kollar’s cases many (unidentified) places.


In the Museum of Military History in Dresden, he photographed an installation showing pigeons wearing tiny cameras during the Second World War.

“They evoke today’s drones. In this case, photography is an intermediary stage, a kind of transitional memory between two times. That’s what I want to work on, filling the void, building something in the interstices,” says Kollar. “I wanted to do work that isn’t linked to any place, which revolves around temporality and provisionality.”

In winning the Prix Elysée, Martin Kollar won 80,000 Swiss Francs. He has one year to make an exhibition and a book which extends Provisional Arrangement. It’ll go on show at at Museum Elysée in Lausanne, Switzerland in September 2016. We already know he has a wit when it comes to installation.

Good luck Martin.


I just published What’s a War-Torn African Nation Got To Do with Editing DNA?, a piece on Vantage about Wired Magazine’s choice of a Richard Mosse photograph Myths Of The Near Future (2012) for the cover of its August issue.

The photograph was made as part of Mosse’s series Infra about the ongoing civil wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but the story is about the science behind– and the copyright battles over–Crispr-Cas9 a genetic engineering technique. The gulf between the original subject matter and the nature of the story raised some questions for me.

I must mention that, in light of 5.4 million deaths in DRC, the line “And the end of life as we know it” emblazoned in 48-font on the front cover, seems a little clumsy, but I’m too clueless about the magazine world for that to be my line of main inquiry. Someone else can muse over those loose words if they think there’s anything more in them than a disconnect between packaging and content typical of the marketplace.


Perhaps I am so discomfited because Mosse’s work makes so much more visual sense being bent ever-so-slightly for this futuristic narrative, than it does for its original intended political purpose?

Mosse pitched in on Twitter with the following three comments, they’re part of a longer back-and-forth with a couple of threads between Ed Brydon and I. Chase those threads if you can.

Read the full piece and see what you think.


Social Justice and Environmental Justice Intersect

Any links between mass incarceration and environmental abuse might not be immediately obvious. But they exist and the Prison Legal News, the Human Rights Defense Center and Nation Inside are combining resources to talk to this unlikely but potent and dangerous intersection of issues.

The Prison Ecology Project is creating tools to dismantle toxic prisons.

Ask people in Appalachia who have watched prisons such as FCI McDowell built on exhausted mountain-top removal mining sites. Ask folks out west who’ve watched prisons plonked down upon fragile desert ecosystems. Ask those in the rust belt, who’ve seen prisons brought to town for the sake of jobs after heavy industry and mineral extraction have left town. When one would think regions couldn’t be stripped and abused anymore, the rape of communities follows that of the environment. In Pennsylvania, a prison built on a toxic coal ash dump is crippling those locked up inside.

Prisons, historically, have gone up where desperation for employment has meant little-to-no oversight, public discussion or even opposition. No one forecast problems because they didn’t want to imagine them; prisons provided an answer to your uncle Frank’s four years of unemployment.

“The prison industry has a long history of ecological violence. Rikers Island prison in New York City was literally built on a trash heap, and evidence suggests a high incidence of cancer among guards and prisoners,” writes the HRDC. “In California and Texas prisoners have little recourse but to drink arsenic-laced water. In Alabama, an overpopulated prison habitually dumps sewage into a river where people fish and swim. In Kentucky, construction of a new prison is poised to clear 700 acres of endangered species habitat. Stories like these are too common. The issues impact millions of people in and around prisons across the US but are largely ignored.”


The Prison Ecology Project is raising $15,000 on IndieGogo to boost its capacity to research and analyse data. They are uncovering abuses and amassing a clearinghouse of information on over 5,000 prisons nationwide which we can all use to fight poisonous prisons!

HRDC’s work in this chronically understudied area will “keep pressure on an industry notorious for its lack of transparency.”


They’ve got the chops. HRDC is the publisher of Prison Legal News which has exposed environmental problems and covered stories of whistleblower litigation in prisons for over 20 years.

The first target of HRDC is a federal prison planned for Letcher County, Kentucky. Its construction would demolish 700 acres of endangered species habitat in Appalachia while imprisoning people hundreds of miles from their families.


“Incarcerated people are some of the most vulnerable and uniquely over-burdened demographics in our nation,” explains HRDC. “Almost all of the prison population is low-income, and people of color are disproportionately represented by wide margins in every state. Most people whose lives have been impacted by the criminal justice system have not engaged with the environmental movement up to the present time.”

The Prison Ecology Project changes that dynamic.


Operating prisons stresses the environment. Recognising that provides yet another reason to fight the toxic philosophical underpinnings and racism of a broken and out of control system. Decarceration is good for your lungs!

It’s not so much as convincing players in one political action to adopt another, as it is exercising closer bonds between movements of the left that operate in opposition counter to the abuse and social exclusion of lower income groups. It’s about recognising new allies and being collectively stronger. I love this type of imagination.



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Verint Israel and NICE System Monitoring Center, Astana, Kazakhstan 2014.

Much of my weekend was spent putting a final editing-touches on the latest Vantage article Panopticon For Sale. The piece, details trade between authoritarian regimes (such as Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain and others) and corporations that manufacture and maintain cyber-surveillance.

The author, Mari Bastashevski, spent 12 months researching this shady industry —  trailing paper work, filing FOIA requests, interviewing and protecting sources, and corroborating statements. Many previously unreported (but commonly suspected) business relations uncovered by Bastashevski have been confirmed by information included in the July 5th hack of Hacking Team (a company that manufactures surveillance technologies) when the identities of its clients were posted online.

As Bastashevski writes in her closing statements:

Companies like NICE, Gamma Group, Verint, and Hacking Team, who sell this power to governments for which “watched a YouTube protests video” constitutes criminal behaviour become co-arbiters of what is and isn’t a “wrong act”. Yet for the companies, much like for their clients, their own secrecy remains absolute and proprietary: not something for press consumption, researchers, or advocates.

Private corporations are facilitating the unfettered surveillance of citizens by paranoid rulers.

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NICE Systems HQ, Ra’anana, Israel 2014.

The comparatively unregulated republics in the post-Soviet region are proving grounds for the shit that the power hungry can get away with.

I’ll stop yelling now, encourage you to read Bastashevski’s #longread, and leave you with an my editor’s foreword to further convince you to take in Bastashevki’s text and images.

This is a narrative built upon information that’s incredibly difficult to verify. Outside of the community of privacy advocates and cyber-surveillance researchers, no-one really saw this story, or necessarily knew what it was or why it mattered. That’s because everything that Bastashevski was looking at — or looking for — is invisible, confidential or both.

When Hacking Team was itself hacked, Bastashevski felt vindicated. Not only did the hack confirm the presence of Hacking Team in countries she investigated, it also confirmed the presence of other companies she knew were providing surveillance to those countries. The lies and questionable dealings of a catastrophic industry were laid bare.

“To photograph or to look at what exists on the verge of catastrophe,” critic Ariella Azoulay once wrote, “the photographer must first assume she has a reason to be in the place of the nonevent or event that never was, which no one has designated as the arena of an event in any meaningful way. She, or those who dispatch her, must suspend the concerns of the owners of the mass media regarding the ratings of the finished product and with her camera begin to sketch a new outline capable of framing the nonevent. Photographing what exists the verge of catastrophe thus is an act that suspends the logic of newsworthiness.”

By virtue of hackers’ actions, and not the logic of the news industry, I find myself in a position to publish Bastashevski’s remarkable findings. A condensed version of this work was exhibited at Musee de Elysee and published in the Prix Elysee catalogue (Musee de Elysee, December 2014). It has since been expanded to include a review of targets and surveillance in Azerbaijan, and cross references of the recent evidence obtained through Hacking Team leak.

This is not a photo essay but rather an essay with photos. Bastashevki makes photographs, in many ways, to show her stories cannot be photographed. These images are way-markers along roads of discovery.

Read the full piece Panopticon For Sale and see more large images.

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Ministry of Communication Tashkent, Uzbekistan, 2014.

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SNB lunch spot, secure Gazalkent district, Tashkent Uzbekistan. 2014.

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Monitoring centre (roof) -Tashkent, Uzbekistan. 2014. Location where data obtained with Hacking Team, Nice Systems, and Verint Technologies is analysed and processed.

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PU-data collection point Kazakhtelecom-Almaty, Kazakhstan, 2014.

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Presidential Palace and MNS HQ, Baku, Azerbaijan 2013.

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Inside Verint Israel HQ, Herzliya Pituach, Israel 2014.

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Transaction — Dedeman Silk Road Radisson Blu, Tashkent ,Uzbekistan. 2014.

All images: Mari Bastashevski


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