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The funeral of Horacio Bau a montonero militant from Trelew in the Argentine patagonia. He disappeared in La Plata in November 1977. His remains were found and buried nearly 30 years after. © João Pina

About this time last year, LENS blog featured João Pina’s ongoing project Operation Condor (since renamed Shadow of the Condor). Daniel J. Wakin wrote, “Operation Condor was a collusion among right-wing dictators in Latin America during the 1970s to eliminate their leftist opponents. The countries involved were Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia.”

João Pina has broken up those six countires into three segments and is currently raising funds via Emphas.is to complete the first focusing on Brazil.

Pina has already interviewed victims and families in Brazil:

In Recife in northeastern Brazil I interviewed and photographed Elzita Santa Cruz, a mother of ten who is now 97 years old. In 1964, when Brazil’s military dictatorship began, several of her children were arrested for political reasons on different occasions. In 1974, one of them, her son Fernando, became Brazil’s first politically “disappeared” person. Since then, Elzita has been demanding that the Brazilian authorities open their archives and explain what happened to Fernando and the other victims of the twenty-one-year dictatorship.

Having worked across South America for six years already, Pina will, as he intends, be able to create a “visual memory”, but as for making evidence for “use by a number of human rights organizations which are still trying to bring those responsible for Operation Condor’s repression to justice,” well, that’s an ambitious goal. Nevertheless, as a documentary project the subject is ranging and imperative. Good luck to him. I’ve stumped up some cash, so should you.

See the Emphas.is project page for Shadow of the Condor and see Pina’s video pitch.

An inmate waves a Chilean flag from his cell at the San Miguel prison following a fire on Wednesday. Claudio Santana / AFP – Getty Images

Earlier today, the MSNBC photoblog ran a four image gallery on the fire at San Miguel Prison, Santiago.

Reporter, Jonathan Woods wrote: “Fire engulfed a prison in the Chilean capital early on Wednesday, killing 81 inmates and critically injuring 14 others, prison officials said, in the worst-ever accident in the country’s jail system. Officials said the fire was triggered during an early-morning fight between inmates.”

The arm of a flag-waving inmate from within the bowels of a charred prison is somewhat confusing for me – is he celebrating life in the face of tragedy? Is it an act of solidarity? If so, with whom – families on the outside, the people, the government (who presumably locked him away)?

The image of the flag amidst wreckage also recalls the visual cues as delivered during the 69 day rescue of the 33 Chilean miners, following the Copiao mining disaster.

The Chileans taught the U.S. a thing or to in flag-waving patriotism during the remarkable story.* The Chilean flag was in the hands of prayerful onlookers, on balloons released by children and on the t-shirts of miners as they emerged from underground in a Chilean themed extraction pod.

The uniting force of symbols – often flags – is powerful and should only be criticised when the means and ends are pernicious.

In the case of the Chilean miners rescue, a near tragedy that ended not only in no deaths but in celebration of life no criticism applies. Just joy. The montage ‘Chile, the Miners, and Respect for Life‘ packages red, blue and white footage against an uplifting music score, which is something I gather Brad Pitt is to perfect. Seriously.

This still gets me no closer to knowing the intent of the flag-waving Chilean prisoner.

Apparently, many nations involved in the rescue effort, counseling and diplomatic duty sent their flags along with their engineering experts. An isolated news report ‘Chilean miners solidarity flag resurfaces‘ explains that the Polish national flag signed by all 33 miners was retrieved from the mine today (belongings are still being extracted).

The flag had been passed to the miners when they were trapped underground in October by Polish missionary, Father Adam Bartyzoł.

* Stephen Colbert, America’s keenest flag-waver, loves the Chilean flag, “It’s just like the American flag, but chunkier!”

MARTIN BATALLES REPRESENTING URUGUAY

LIVIA CORONA REPRESENTING MEXICO

MARCOS LOPEZ REPRESENTING ARGENTINA

Friend of Prison Photography, Emiliano Granado, likes football as much as he rocks at photography.

We pooled our knowledge to pair each country competing in South Africa with a photographer of the same nationality.

GROUP A

FRA France  – JR
MEX Mexico – Livia Corona
RSA South Africa – Mikhael Subotzky
URU Uruguay – Martín Batallés

GROUP B

ARG Argentina – Marcos Lopez
GRE Greece – George Georgiou (Born in London to Greek Cypriot parent)
KOR South Korea – Ye Rin Mok
NGA Nigeria – George Osodi

GROUP C

ALG Algeria – Christian Poveda
ENG England – Stephen Gill
SVN Slovenia – Klavdij Sluban (French of Slovenian origin … I know, I know, but you try to find a Slovenia born photographer!)
USA United States – Bruce Davison

GROUP D

AUS Australia – Stephen Dupont
GER Germany – August Sander
GHA Ghana – Philip Kwame Apagya
SRB Serbia – Boogie

GROUP E

CMR Cameroon – Barthélémy Toguo
DEN Denmark – Henrik Knudsen
JPN Japan – Araki
NED Netherlands – Rineke Dijkstra

GROUP F

ITA Italy – Massimo Vitali
NZL New Zealand – Robin Morrison
PAR Paraguay – ?????
SVK Slovakia – Martin Kollar

GROUP G

BRA Brazil – Sebastiao Selgado
CIV Ivory Coast – Ananias Leki Dago
PRK North Korea – Tomas van Houtryve (it was difficult to find a North Korean photographer)
POR Portugal – Joao Pina

GROUP H

CHI Chile – Sergio Larrain
HON Honduras – Daniel Handal
ESP Spain – Alberto García Alix
SUI Switzerland – Jules Spinatsch

Emiliano has been posting images from each of the photographers and doubled up on a few nations where the talent pool is teeming. You can see them all over on his Tumblr account, A PILE OF GEMS

NOTES

* Don’t even begin arguing about who should represent the USA. It is a never-ending debate.

* I’ll be honest, finding photographers for the African nations was tricky, even for a web-search-dork like myself. But then we knew about the shortcomings of distribution and promotion within the industry, didn’t we?

* For Chile, we had to look to the past legend Larrain. I’ll be grateful if someone suggest a living practitioner.

* North Korean photographer, by name, anyone? We had to fall back on van Houtryve because he got inside the DPR.

* Rineke Dijkstra was one of approximately 4 thousand-trillion dutch photographers who are everywhere.

* Araki was the easy choice. Ill admit – I know next to nothing about Japanese photography (Marc, help?)

* I wanted a few more political photographers in there, while Emiliano goes for arty stuff. I think we found a nice balance overall.

* And, SERIOUSLY, name me a Paraguayan photographer! PLEASE.

AUGUST SANDER REPRESENTING GERMANY

JULES SPINATSCH REPRESENTING SWITZERLAND

PHILIP KWAME APAGYA REPRESENTING GHANA

I was first aware of João de Carvalho Pina‘s work a couple of years ago when Jim pointed to Pina’s photographic homage to the political prisoners of Portugal (1926-1974). Two of Pina’s grandparents were imprisoned by the Portuguese regime.

Just as that terror ended in Europe, another began across six countries in South America. Pina’s project Operation Condor has just featured on the New York Times’ Lens blog, for which Daniel J. Wakin explains:

Operation Condor was a collusion among right-wing dictators in Latin America during the 1970s to eliminate their leftist opponents. The countries involved were Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia.”

More from the NY Times on the sites of detention:

Mr. Pina said he was struck by how ordinary the locations were — garages, a sports stadium, offices. “Most of them are places that can be in the corner of our houses,” he said. “They’re very normal places”

Very important work, not least the portraits of survivors. Pina’s goal is to create a visual memory of the era working against a relative dearth of historical documentation, “to show people that this actually happened. There are hundreds of thousands of people affected by it.”

The first four chapters of Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine deal with the military juntas and international interference in South America from the mid 50s until the 80s. Highly recommended.

– – – –

I have been working on a series of posts about the Desaparecidos in Argentina specifically, one group of nationals affected by the continental ideological wars of South America in the 70s and 80s. Expect follow up posts on this subject.

ELSEWHERES

Pina works on incredible breadth of issues, all related by their focus on the harshest of social violence. Most recently, his work on the gangs of Rio de Janeiro has garnered attention, here and here.

Below is an image from his Portuguese political prisoners project (source).


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