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Bruce Gilden’s street shooting methods polarise opinion. His “ambush tactics” (for want of a better phrase) are, for some, the exercise of any photographer’s right in public space, for others he just goes about stuff in a rude way.

Anyway, here’s a TMZ-style photo exclusive of Gilden in front of the camera and not behind it. Gilden the ambushed; not Gilden the ambusher.

Journalist Jake Warga made these photographs in April. Warga was not part of Gilden’s entourage. We can presume that Gilden, at this time, was shooting Haiti: 15 Months Later.

I was critical of Gilden in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake suggesting his images were little more than a digitised freak-show.

Warga was not surprised the Haitian, who he described as “drunk out of his mind on cheap wine” was attracted to the documentary film crew following Gilden through the graveyard with their photo accoutrements.

“He wanted his photo taken,” says Warga, “I try not to be seduced by spectacle but it was the only way he’d leave me alone. In turn, he gravitated towards Gilden’s cameras, joining the circus of gazes already in Bruce’s orbit.”

The bizarre nature of this interaction can be put down to a mixture of grief, inebriation, intrusion, Gilden’s personal theatre, and the scene acted out by the Haitian man. And all this in a cemetery.

This is probably just another day at the office for Gilden who makes a habit of hanging out with violent persons.

Confusing layers here no doubt, but for me, the take away is Gilden’s flitting averted eyes (top image). As if part of some karmic return, this Haitian man getting up in Gilden’s grill can be read as a metaphor; as a spectre, and brief embodiment, of Gilden’s many victims down the years.

The tables are turned and it looks briefly unsettling doesn’t it?

NYC103226 © Bruce Gilden / MAGNUM Photos

Gilden makes no bones about his style. He’s brash and in-yer-face. It’s his visual brand.

He doesn’t change his brand. With his surprise tactics, Gilden makes fun of New Yorkers as much as Texan millionaires as much as Guantanamo soldiers. (Might he also employ subtler approaches than the video below suggests?)

And why should he change his visual brand? He’s worked hard at it and we have supported it his whole career.

On the front page of magnumphotos.com today are a few of his shots from the Haiti earthquake aftermath. Should Gilden have changed his approach for his 2010 Haiti portfolio?

No, I don’t think Gilden should change his style; I think Gilden should’ve just stayed away.

This is my own personal opinion and I am not interested in any crusade against Gilden’s assumed approach or ethics. I just didn’t want to let his work pass without saying that I find it quite uncomfortable. This project isn’t the sort of thing I want to look at.

GILDEN REPEATS TOWELL’S MISTAKE?

A couple of weeks ago John Sevigny had a serious pop at Larry Towell (also of Magnum) for “gratuitous, racist and disgusting” work. I posted it, the Click picked it up and there was a short discussion at Lightstalkers.

I see where Sevigny’s coming from but I also appreciate comments which add a bit more subtlety to the debate – namely that exposed breasts are not always to be sexualised or considered part of an unequal power dynamic. This is just imposing ones own sensitivity upon another culture. More problematic is the fact the bare-chested woman is unable to move from the hospital bed away from Towell’s directed lens. Anyway, I digress, Gilden’s Haiti work is the topic at issue.

The situation with Gilden is slightly different. I must pause here and state that Gilden has photographed Haiti many times before (1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1995); he has perhaps been as many as a dozen times? And yet, I feel as though Gilden’s images of victims (many amputees) in the MSF hospital are feeding the same distant disdain we reserve for drunk and bloodied hipsters in our faux-fashion magazines (Vice). Isn’t Gilden’s work going to get caught up in a visual culture that often replaces even slightly careful representation with the thrill of gore and body fluids?

I take issue with Gilden’s style as used in Haiti, now. To me personally, Gilden’s style mocks its subjects. I can’t get away from that. I would fully anticipate Gilden arguing (very well) just the opposite – that he cares deeply about different shapes, colours, countenances and circumstances of all the people at whom he launches his lens and flash.

NYC103269 © Bruce Gilden / MAGNUM Photos

After the MSF hospital Gilden goes on to make a typology of survivors’ structures and portraits of beggars, tent city dwellers and the mentally ill.

So, I want to ask. Do I have a point? Do you share my aversion to Gilden’s work in the aftermath of this natural disaster of a quarter-million fatalities?

Magnum has made a public commitment to funding work in Haiti, but should we maybe have hoped that the members had encouraged Gilden to perhaps sit this one out?

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Go to Magnum and search “Gilden Guantanamo”. I’m not sure Gilden’s technique could really flourish at the illegal prison but he had a good go.

(From top left, clockwise) 1. Major-General Geoffrey Miller, Commander of Joint Task Force at Guantanamo Bay, is in charge of the 680 suspected enemy combatants in the camp. 2. Specialist Lily Allison Fitzborgen, a reservist who wants to become a police officer, is one of the guards who watches over the detainees. 3. Surveillance at Camp America. 4. Sergeant guard at a hospital for “enemy combatant” detainees. His name is blacked out so the detainees can’t see it. (Below) Before a prayer breakfast at Camp America.

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All photos © Bruce Gilden/Magnum

 

© Chris Maluszynski/Agence VU

Guantanamo © Chris Maluszynski/Agence VU

 

 

 

 

Courtesy of The Department of Defense Visual Information Center

Guantanamo Bay Tents. Courtesy of The Department of Defense Visual Information Center

 

I am very happy with the way Prison Photography is progressing. I have done interviews with some outstanding photographers and artists. I have offered opinion where I think there’s something to be said. The most satisfying work on the blog is that contributed by guest bloggers, comment-makers and interviewees. Photographers have contacted me and I have been eager to comment upon their work.

But, there is one audience I never anticipated – The Google Image Search Audience. I get many hits for searches on Guantanamo, Guantanamo video, Iraq prison, Abu Ghraib, Abu Ghraib Images of Prisoners, etc, etc – which is strange because these are topics that many people have grappled over with more proficiency and depth than I am likely to.

It is obvious that there is a need for fast access to images of America’s sites of torture and incarceration, namely Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. I certainly don’t wish to fuse the two institutional histories so I shall deal only with Guantanamo Bay.

Louie Palu

Walrus Magazine. 8 of Palu’s photographs and accompanying article.

The Atlantic. 6 of Palu’s photographs.

Private galleries. Palu’s Photoshelter profile offers three separate galleries, but they’re password protected. Contact the photographer directly.

NPR Interview. Palu offered insight into his experience and impressions of Guantanamo.

Christopher Sims

Mother Jones. 15 images of daily life outside of the prison complex.

Civilian Arts Project. 25 images of a bizarrely serene Guantanamo Naval Base.

BBC, The Other Side of Guantanamo. Article about Sims’ series.

Daylight Magazine. 4 minute audio of Sims’ experiences on project.

Chris Maluszynski

Agence VU/Moment. Twenty-six images exhibited. Likely more on file at the agency.

Cesar Vera

Guantanamo Prison. 18 Black & White images. 3 Colour.

Joint Task Force (JTF)

Many of the photographs shown in the press over the last few years were taken by members of the Navy’s own Joint Task Force. When press photographers visited the JTF vetted all images before release.

Boston Globe. 30 Hi-Res images.

Repeat of above selection. 20 Hi-Res images selected.

JTF Photo Galleries. 22 months (July 2007 – May 2009). Hundreds of images. Official photography.

Miami Herald

Description of the 8 different camps at Guantanamo

Explanation of the Legal contexts: Key defendants, the judges, the defense and prosecution counsel.

Cursory look at Art influenced by Guantanamo

Magnum

Bruce Gilden. Guantanamo Bay. Enemy Combatant Camps, 2003

Paolo Pellegrin. Guantanamo Detainees, 2006

Stuart Franklin’s work Cuba, 2003, included images from Guantanamo and you’ll need to search the Magnum website for images.

McClatchy

An eight-month McClatchy investigation of the detention system created after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has found that the U.S. imprisoned innocent men, subjected them to abuse, stripped them of their legal rights and allowed Islamic militants to turn the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba into a school for jihad.

Intro. Text and 11 minute video.

Photos. Detainees held at Guantanamo Bay

Photos. Faces of Guantanamo Detainees. Part one.

Photos. Faces of Guantanamo Detainees. Part two.

Photos. Detainees held in Afghanistan.

Eyeballing

Comprehensive overview of base using Google Maps, official photographs. Details structures, uses and topography of naval base.

Camp America, Camp Delta, Camp V and Administrative & Court building.

Camp X-ray and construction of later detention camps.

Maximum Security facility

Associated Press

Images of Detainee existence.

Images of facilities and interiors of various detention blocks and camps.

Stars & Stripes “The Independent News Source for the U.S. Military Community”

Work at Guantanamo

Education at Guantanamo

Recreation at Guantanamo

Artistic Turns

David Hicks. Virtual Guantanamo Cell

Penny Byrne. Porcelain Guantanamo Detainee Figurines

Gregor Schneider. 21 Cells, Bondi Beach, Australia

Legofesto. Guantanamo reconfigured with Lego men and Lego pieces and Wired Interview

Flickr – Protest Images

Amnesty International. Guantanamo Protests

Various Photographers. 100 Days to Close Guantanamo and End Torture.

James M. Thorne. Protest images.

Miscellaneous Media

Prisoners of War. 2004 article by the San Francisco Gray Panthers with images of US airforce  transporting detainees and early 2003 images of Camp X-Ray.

BBC. Life in a Guantanamo Cell

 

Rendition. Photographer Unknown

Rendition. Photographer Unknown

 

 

© Cesar Vera

© Cesar Vera

 

 

Guantanamo Bay Navel Base with a New Commander-in-Chief. Photographer Unknown. http://www.obamalouverture.com/f39/guantanamo-bay-switch-bush-photo-obama.html

Guantanamo Bay Navel Base with a New Commander-in-Chief. Photographer Unknown. http://www.obamalouverture.com/f39/guantanamo-bay-switch-bush-photo-obama.html

 

 

The standard issue of clothing, sleeping mat, food, sandles, canteen, soap, and buckets for detainees of Camp X-Ray is pictured in Camp X-Ray at the U.S. Navy Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2002. Tomas van Houtryve/AP Photo

The standard issue of clothing, sleeping mat, food, sandles, canteen, soap, and buckets for detainees of Camp X-Ray is pictured in Camp X-Ray at the U.S. Navy Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2002. © Tomas van Houtryve/AP Photo

 

 

CUBA. Guantanamo Bay. 2003. Soldiers wait for their meals before a prayer breakfast at Camp America. Photo: Bruce Gilden/Magnum

CUBA. Guantanamo Bay. 2003. Soldiers wait for their meals before a prayer breakfast at Camp America. Photo: Bruce Gilden/Magnum

 

 

Penny Byrne Guantanamo Bay Souvenirs 2007, vintage figurines, metal chains, epoxy resin, plastic, re-touching medium, powder pigments, 14 x 32 x 10 cm.

Penny Byrne Guantanamo Bay Souvenirs 2007, vintage figurines, metal chains, epoxy resin, plastic, re-touching medium, powder pigments, 14 x 32 x 10 cm.

 

 

 

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