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Dutch photographer Jan Banning is fascinated by what communism looks like today. In 2013, he set out to document the obscured activities of small Communist Party chapters in Italy, India, Nepal, Portugal and Russia.

“I’m interested in countries in which communism isn’t a dominating ideology and places I could assume that members do it out of conviction and not because they think it’s good for their career,” says Banning of the series, Red Utopia. “Many of the local party members I met, who are still plodding along, certainly have a place in my heart now — either because of their own sad fate or because of how they devote themselves to social justice, often unpaid, and in many practical ways offer help to ordinary people.”

I wrote about the work for Timeline. Read and see more: Photos: A look at communists and their humble party offices around the globe

 

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© Poulomi Basu

The border areas between India and Pakistan are dangerous and in many areas lawless.

Indian women have very recently become part of the military response to arms dealing, drug smuggling and people trafficking.

“On September 2009, India’s first ever batch of women soldiers of The Border Security Armed Force were deployed in these infamous borders of Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir as the country’s first line of defence,” says Basu.

Poulomi Basu spent time with the young women (aged 17-25), both Hindus and Muslims, at boot camps, homes and on the front-line documenting their “transformation from women to soldiers.”

Basu believes these women are not only fighting their enemies but also the military tradition and the attitudes of a patriarchal society. Less than 1% of India’s 1.2 million armed forces are women.

To Conquer Her Land is about new forms of stress – related to combatant life – that has never existed for Indian women before in history. Basu says To Conquer Her Land wrestles with “intricate issues of conflict, psychological warfare, class, youth, gender, love, peace, the concept of home, an undefined idea of patriotism, and the strength of the mind.”

The series is a beguiling mix of fine art portraiture, B&W documentary images and PJ style theatre-of-war shots. The mixture can be quite disorienting; blurry B&W akin to Japanese art photography interrupted by delicate double and group portraits in colour. Basu even goes all Robert-Capa on us!

© Poulomi Basu

ALSO WORTH A LOOK

Photographer, Rachel Papo’s Serial #3817131 follows young Israeli girls through the mandatory military service.

Papo and Basu’s work have things in common, although Papo’s work is concerned with her own biography. Papo says, Serial #3817131 represents my effort to come to terms with the experiences of being a soldier from the perspective of an adult. My service had been a period of utter loneliness, mixed with apathy and pensiveness, and at the time I was too young to understand it all. Through the camera’s lens, I tried to reconstruct facets of my military life, hopeful to reconcile matters that had been left unresolved.”

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