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In my recent feature of Edmund Clark’s work on Guantanamo (that focuses on not only the fabric of the prison but also the environmental details of their homes post-release) I was reminded of Paula Bronstein‘s Guantanamo detainee portraits.
Whereas Clark focuses on detainees released into Western – I presume UK – society, Bronstein tracks former detainees down in their homeland, Afghanistan. She has photographed returning prisoners many times since 2002. All her work is collated at here at Getty Images. Time magazine ran Portraits of Gitmo Detainees earlier this year.
There are many stories to consider, and they are of course more vital than the photographs. The early releases, including Jan Mohammad (above), from 2002 came with favourable testimony in which detainees said they were treated fairly and allowed to practice their religion.
Mohammed Jawal, who could have been as young as 12 when he was detained was, according to a judge, tortured.
Haji Nasrat, Guantanamo’s oldest detainee, has spoken words which bear the experience of failed American policy in Afghanistan, “When (the Americans) came to Afghanistan everybody was waiting for America to help us build our country. We were looking for you guys and we were very happy that you would come to our country. The people who hated you were very few, but you just grabbed guys like me. Look at me. Our very happiness, you changed it to (bitterness).”
After eight years of war and too many attacks that have killed civilians, President Obama’s military and non-military personnel have a large task to improve security and win back the trust of the Afghanistan people. Is it even possible? If not, the biggest losers resulting from the lie that was the war on Iraq – and all the distractions it carried – may be the people of Afghanistan.
Found via Travel Photographer
His family claim he was 12 when he was taken into US custody. The pentagon claim he was 17. Whichever the case, the treatment remained the same.
Video from the Guardian.
This post is to salve the disappointment of thousands of visitors to Prison Photography that are tempted by the post titled View Inside Guantanamo: Video only to find that the Guardian’s rights to the three minute “tour” video have expired.
There exists a bristling irony in the Guardian’s curt and formal explanation of circumstance: the erasure of evidence based upon ‘rights’ pertaining to the command is an insulting reminder of the powerlessness of detainees whose lives are manipulated at will.
Paradoxically, in this case, it is the denied party that is the apologist for the US military’s enforced expiration and unavailability of material. It seems the controlled release of this footage has been trumped by its controlled withdrawal.
As a worthy (and non-governmental) alternative, Magnum offers Paolo Pellegrin’s 11 minute slideshow ‘Guantanamo‘. There are a few interesting things about this piece none of which are the actual photographs. The prints are steeped in morbid detachment and the unsurprising truth that the photographer was also controlled throughout this military prison.
The slideshow’s early description of Guantanamo as a small American town is sinister; the edited audio interviews of former UK detainees, family members, detainee lawyer and psychologist are very successful. The follow-up portraits of former detainees that Pellegrin later completed in Afghanistan are very strong.
All photos copyright of Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos
Please, refer to my earlier post, for a comprehensive directory of photographic resources for Guantanamo including Bruce Gilden’s subtle flash-bulb mockery of Guantanamo’s rank and file. (Search within Magnum archives as deep-linking is impossible).