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Rutger, Prins - Discord copy

Rutgers Prins Discord

The curatorial concepts are pioneering, the viewing experience nerve-wracking, and the conclusions occasionally terrifying, but the exhibition DATA RUSH — unlike the powers and digital infrastructures upon which it sheds light — will leave you empowered.

I just wrote, for Vantage, an in-depth review of Wim Melis and Hester Keijser‘s show DATA RUSH, which was the centerpiece to this years Noorderlicht Photofestival in the Netherlands.

The piece is titled This Exhibition Sees Our Ties to Data, Reveals the Future Is Now but it might as well be titled Finally, a Photography Show That Actually Deals with Our Relationship to Screens and Networks!

Arnold Koroshegyi

Arnold Koroshegyi. Electroscapes, 2011-2012

It was a slow process getting my head around the sheer volume of artists’ projects (45) in the show, but it was worth it. Virtually every project is worth a symposium in itself.

For photography, a comparatively conservative medium, DATA RUSH is light years ahead of most presentations. It’s precisely where our discussions about photography need to be if it we’re to comprehend the ways in which we are subject to images and image indexing.

Read the full piece which also boasts bigger images and some photos not included here below.

Hannes Hepp

Hannes Hepp. Not So Alone – Lost In Chatroom, 2012-2015


Simon Høgsberg Grocery Store Project

Andrew Hammerand

Andrew Hammerand. The New Town, 2013

Fernando Moleres. Internet Gaming Addicts, 2014


Sterling Crispin, Data Masks

Julian Röder. Mission and Task, 2012/2013. Situation room of the FRONTEX headquarters in Warsaw, Poland, June, 2014

Catherine Balet

Catherine Balet. Strangers in the Light, 2009

Nate Larson & Marni Shindelman. Geolocation, 2009 – present

Dina Litovsky

Dina Litovsky. Untag This Photo, 2010-2012


Daniel Mayrit’s You Haven’t Seen Their Faces (detail)


Mintio. ~T.H.O.H.Y~ (aka The Hall of Hyperdelic Youths), 2010

Heinrich Holtgreve

Heinrich Holtgreve. The Internet as a Place, 2013-2015

Spanish photographer Fernando Moleres has embarked on a singlehanded and single-minded mission to improve the lives of juvenile prisons in Sierra Leone. His interview Visa Pour l’Image: Fernando Moleres’ struggle to help juvenile prisoners in Sierra Leone at the British Journal of Photography is a must read.

Moleres speaks of the incredible difficulty to raise money for his work – not his photography work, but his work to connect these children with their families (many of whom are unaware their children are incarcearated) and also his work to provide bail so as to “prevent the children seeing the walls of a jail in the first place.”

Moleres is clearly disillusioned by the lack of forthcoming support from groups he’d expect to be solid allies. Here’s some choose quotes that are a challenge to politicians and NGOs alike (my bolding):

“[In African prisons] you have more chances of dying in these prisons than anywhere else – you can die of diseases, malnutrition. Also, injustice is more flagrant than anywhere else. There are barely any lawyers, some detainees have spent years in prison without even going in front of a court. There is a deep injustice – deeper than in any other country such as Russia, India, Israel or the United States.”

“People don’t realise the extent of the injustice present in these prisons. They are forgotten by everyone. When I was asking for help to NGOs – the Red Cross, Médecins du Monde, etc. – no one, absolutely no one wanted to help me. Of course, I was there on my own initiative; so I didn’t have a project they could study, send to Europe for the green light, which would then be rescinded… There’s so much bureaucracy that in these cases it would just not be possible.”

“I’m the only one paying for all of this. I’m spending my own money. This exhibition, which is travelling around Spain at the moment, has received an award from the NGO Medecins du Monde. During the award ceremony, I asked them if they could help me finance this project. Their answer was no.

“I think it would be easy for an organisation to force Sierra Leone to do something. The United Nations, for example, would be the perfect organisation to do so. Talking about the United Nations, when I was in Sierra Leone, a representative from the organisation came to the prison to visit the detainees. I went with him. He talked with a few dealers, the guards, etc. But when other detainees came to see him to denounce the injustice of the entire system, his answer was: “I’m not here to solve your personal problems.” This man, whose name is Antonio Maria Costa [his official title is Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Director-General of the United Nations Office in Vienna], has access to the country’s vice president and home affairs minister. He could have done something about it, but he chose not to.

Depressing stuff.

For my more general thoughts on Moleres’ work from Sierra Leone and other photographers who’ve documented juvenile detention in Africa see Fernando Moleres: ‘Merciless Justice’ from January, 2011.

Each year, UNICEF Germany grants the “UNICEF Photo of the Year Award” to photo series that best depict the personality and living conditions of children across the globe.

Among the 2010 Honorable Mentions was Spanish freelancer Fernando Moleres for his documents of children in Central Prison, usually known as Pademba Road Prison, in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown.

Click here, scroll down and click on his name to see the full UNICEF portfolio. Click here for Moleres’ full portfolio.

It’s often difficult to engage an audience with “new” images of prisons, but Moleres succeeded with the image of the collapsed official at his desk (above). The disorganisation of paperwork in this image works as metaphor for a broken institution – much as Hogarth’s littered furniture and bodies are metaphors for broken society.

It also works as a foil (for those who are familiar with) to Jan Banning’s Bureaucratics portfolio; even those of Banning’s subjects amid seeming disarray, never appear defeated like Moleres’ prison administrator.

“Pademba Road Prison was built for 300 prisoners, but it has more than 1,100 prisoners at present, many of whom are children,” explains Moleres.

Conditions are appalling and hearing trials is based more on chance than process. “Countless cases of unspeakable misery – that’s the life of those who are imprisoned here,” says Moleres. “There are no beds, mattresses or sanitary facilities. No electricity and no water. Hardly any food. Their relatives often don’t know anything about the fate of the prisoners.”

A broken, hectic institution.

Moleres continues with three examples, “Teenagers like 16-year-old Lebbise*, sentenced without trial to three years in prison because he allegedly stole 100,000 Leones (25 Euros). 17-year-old Hilmani*, sentenced without trial because he allegedly stole his uncle’s scooter. 17-year-old Manyu*, sentenced without trial to three years in prison because he allegedly stole two sheep. He died in prison in spring 2010.”

*Names changed

As an audience to this type of imagery, we should note that, in 2006, Lynsey Addario photographed in Pademba Road Prison as well as jails in Uganda. On the evidence of the photographs, conditions have not improved.

Moreles paints a picture of a wasteful, desperate and predatory environment in Pademba Road Prison. This is the common view of prisons in many African countries, and sadly the reality for children caught in these systems. Many of Moleres’ photographs repeat the scenes of prisons photographed by others working in Africa, eg, Nathalie Mohadjer (Burundi), Julie Remy (Guinea), Joao Silva (Malawi) and Tom Martin (Burundi).

The common threads of these portfolios is tension, filth, depleted light, malnutrition, overcrowding and the solitary gaze of a forlorn child.

Prisons are most destructive to young lives that are not prepared for induction to the unpredictable environment. I would say this of prisons in America and the UK just as readily.

UNICEF is right to shed light upon the most upsetting (and unseen) realities for the most disenfranchised children in our global society.


Moleres also won the Luis Valtuena International Humanitarian Photography Award for his story on the prison system in Sierra Leone.

Molores has photographed children and the issues that affect their since 1992. in over 30 countries. He has been recipient of a Mother Jones Grant, (1994), the “Juan Carlos King of Spain” International Prize (1995), an Erna and Victor Hasselblad Foundation Grant, Sweden (1996), a finalist for the Eugene Smith Prize (1997), World Press Photo award for “Children at work” daily life series (1998), W. Eugene Smith Prize, 2nd prize (1999), World Press Photo, Art category (2002), Revela International Award, Spain, (2009), Honorable Mention Philantropy Award (2010) and an Honorable mention for the Gijon international Prize.


The prizes for the UNICEF Photo of the Year, 2010 went to First: Ed Kashi; Second: Majid Saeedi; Third: GMB Akash.


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