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Louie Palu, a photographer I much admire because of his past photographic exploits has just secured the Alexia Foundation Grant for Professionals. The $15,000 award will allow Palu to continue his project Kandahar.

NPPA quotes Palu:

“I wanted to start balancing the coverage of the war and look more at the Afghan civilian situation. Once labeled as ‘The Forgotten War’ by many in the media only a few years ago, when I arrived in Kandahar in 2006 and up until 2008 very little international media was interested in Afghanistan. I hope we never forget like that again.”

I don’t think we will, not in today’s media climate that has swung full circle back to great emphasis on the politics of the nine year old conflict.

See Palu’s full proposal and portfolio at the Alexia Foundation website, and view his video work at the Atlantic.

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Juliette Lynch won the Alexia Foundation Grant for Students.

And despite all her amazing work, I just had to post this image (not from her portfolio) of her celebrating the win! I think it deserves an award itself.

Photo by Andrew Maclean. Bruce Strong and Juliette Lynch rejoice as Lynch is named winner of the 2010 Alexia Student Competition. SOURCE

Well done Juliette.

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The Alexia Foundation for World Peace was established by the family of Alexia Tsairis, an honors photojournalism student at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University who was a victim of the terrorist bombing of Pan Am flight #103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 21, 1988. She was returning home for the Christmas holidays after spending a semester at the Syracuse University London Centre.

Don’t get lost in the impressive Alexia Archives

Lee Grant contacted me a few months ago to tell me of her project Belco Pride – an institutional portrait of the now empty Belconnen Remand Centre. ‘Belco’ was a small facility designed for 17 people, but according to Lee housing approximately 70 toward the end. Officially, the capacity is/was “under revision”.

The remand prisoners have since been relocated to the Alexander Maconochie Centre, which is talked up as Australia’s first prison built in accordance with the Geneva Convention (more on that in a later post).

After inmate rehousing, but before total closure, Grant took another opportunity to tour the facility, “thanks to an open day … billed, believe it or not, as a family event. And the families were out in force …”

Therefore, I was happy to see Lee post a few of her images from the ongoing series. I particularly liked these two pairings which are a wry juxtaposition.

belco_remand_21

belco_remand_32

Shortly thereafter my enjoyment turned to bafflement.

In Lee’s description of the open day she mentioned that the phrase “Arbeit macht frei” was clearly visible to all arriving visitors. This flat out shocked me. On Lee’s blog, I commented,

There is no correlation between Nazi concentration camps and modern Australian prisons. The inclusion of the phrase is confusing and offensive.

I had originally mistaken the facility, thinking the quote was on view at an opening for the new prison and not, as the case was, a closing of the old. Still, wonder remains at this crude and ill-advised allusion.

Lee responded;

Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to chase up on the quotes with Corrective Services as yet and why they thought this was appropriate or even OK.

It may well be possible that the quote was already there from when detainees were being held (it was one of the first things you see on a whiteboard as you walk into the processing area of the facility). Though this is no excuse, it may partially explain why it wasn’t removed and as you stated, it is to some extent an indictment of the culture and thinking of some people who work in the prison system.

Interestingly I vaguely remember the local paper referring to the quote though I don’t recall the reporter making any association to Nazi concentration camps. I shall let you know if I find any more answers but I hope this helps a little bit.

[I will be sure to post any developments – be they images or elaborations on this peculiar alignment of geography, phrase and history.]

Like Lee, I do not want to judge individuals working in Corrective Services. Instead, I’ll simply say that systems in which workers operate along lines of strict procedure are likely to harbour casual and offensive attitudes. Workers are as disciplined as inmates in all prisons. So when individuals are subject to a system – relieved of actual decision making – there is no incentive to challenge objectionable attitudes.

For the best of the rest, check out Lee Grant’s Op Shop series, which proves that you can change the country and you can change the moniker (charity shop, UK; thrift store, USA) but the look, personnel, wares and atmosphere remain the same.

Grant_Ties

BURN Magazine, under the fiscal umbrella of the Magnum Cultural Foundation, have announced a $10,000 grant “to support [the] continuation of the photographer’s personal project. This body of work may be of either journalistic mission or purely personal artistic imperatives”

I am encouraging people to take on the difficult task of securing prolonged and necessary time with a prison/jail/detention-centre population in order to faithfully describe the stories and systems of its particular circumstance. On top of that your product must be “work is on the highest level”.

It’s a tall order but if you have carried out portrait or documentary photography in a site of incarceration before (I know many of you), then submit an application to continue that critical and valuable work. It will have to better than my attempt.

San Pedro Prison, La Paz. July 2008.

San Pedro Prison, La Paz. July 2008.

Hmm. On the same day I encourage photographers to attempt access into sites designed to be impenetrable, the government and police in my home country have introduced “laws that allow for the arrest – and imprisonment – of anyone who takes pictures of officers ‘likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism’.” (British Journal of Photography via In-Public)

BURN Magazine is a new(ish) venture by David Alan Harvey whose got a Magnum portfolio and his own internets.

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