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State Business-Chapter III

Verint Israel and NICE System Monitoring Center, Astana, Kazakhstan 2014.

Much of my weekend was spent putting a final editing-touches on the latest Vantage article Panopticon For Sale. The piece, details trade between authoritarian regimes (such as Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain and others) and corporations that manufacture and maintain cyber-surveillance.

The author, Mari Bastashevski, spent 12 months researching this shady industry —  trailing paper work, filing FOIA requests, interviewing and protecting sources, and corroborating statements. Many previously unreported (but commonly suspected) business relations uncovered by Bastashevski have been confirmed by information included in the July 5th hack of Hacking Team (a company that manufactures surveillance technologies) when the identities of its clients were posted online.

As Bastashevski writes in her closing statements:

Companies like NICE, Gamma Group, Verint, and Hacking Team, who sell this power to governments for which “watched a YouTube protests video” constitutes criminal behaviour become co-arbiters of what is and isn’t a “wrong act”. Yet for the companies, much like for their clients, their own secrecy remains absolute and proprietary: not something for press consumption, researchers, or advocates.

Private corporations are facilitating the unfettered surveillance of citizens by paranoid rulers.

State Business-Chapter III

NICE Systems HQ, Ra’anana, Israel 2014.

The comparatively unregulated republics in the post-Soviet region are proving grounds for the shit that the power hungry can get away with.

I’ll stop yelling now, encourage you to read Bastashevski’s #longread, and leave you with an my editor’s foreword to further convince you to take in Bastashevki’s text and images.

This is a narrative built upon information that’s incredibly difficult to verify. Outside of the community of privacy advocates and cyber-surveillance researchers, no-one really saw this story, or necessarily knew what it was or why it mattered. That’s because everything that Bastashevski was looking at — or looking for — is invisible, confidential or both.

When Hacking Team was itself hacked, Bastashevski felt vindicated. Not only did the hack confirm the presence of Hacking Team in countries she investigated, it also confirmed the presence of other companies she knew were providing surveillance to those countries. The lies and questionable dealings of a catastrophic industry were laid bare.

“To photograph or to look at what exists on the verge of catastrophe,” critic Ariella Azoulay once wrote, “the photographer must first assume she has a reason to be in the place of the nonevent or event that never was, which no one has designated as the arena of an event in any meaningful way. She, or those who dispatch her, must suspend the concerns of the owners of the mass media regarding the ratings of the finished product and with her camera begin to sketch a new outline capable of framing the nonevent. Photographing what exists the verge of catastrophe thus is an act that suspends the logic of newsworthiness.”

By virtue of hackers’ actions, and not the logic of the news industry, I find myself in a position to publish Bastashevski’s remarkable findings. A condensed version of this work was exhibited at Musee de Elysee and published in the Prix Elysee catalogue (Musee de Elysee, December 2014). It has since been expanded to include a review of targets and surveillance in Azerbaijan, and cross references of the recent evidence obtained through Hacking Team leak.

This is not a photo essay but rather an essay with photos. Bastashevki makes photographs, in many ways, to show her stories cannot be photographed. These images are way-markers along roads of discovery.

Read the full piece Panopticon For Sale and see more large images.

State Business-Chapter III

Ministry of Communication Tashkent, Uzbekistan, 2014.

State Business-Chapter III

SNB lunch spot, secure Gazalkent district, Tashkent Uzbekistan. 2014.

State Business-Chapter III

Monitoring centre (roof) -Tashkent, Uzbekistan. 2014. Location where data obtained with Hacking Team, Nice Systems, and Verint Technologies is analysed and processed.

State Business-Chapter III

PU-data collection point Kazakhtelecom-Almaty, Kazakhstan, 2014.

State Business-Chapter III

Presidential Palace and MNS HQ, Baku, Azerbaijan 2013.

State Business-Chapter III

State Business-Chapter III

Inside Verint Israel HQ, Herzliya Pituach, Israel 2014.

State Business Chapter III

Transaction — Dedeman Silk Road Radisson Blu, Tashkent ,Uzbekistan. 2014.

All images: Mari Bastashevski

Woman with her mud. 2012 Sanatorium worker prepares to remove the rest of used healing mud. The mud reserves are coming to the end as a source mud lake is now placed on the territory of Kashagan oil refinery plant. Atyrau, Kazakhstan. 2012

My piece For These Post-Soviet Nations, Big Oil Offers Hope and Fear
about Mila Teshaieva’s Promising Waters pubbed on WIRED this week.

Promising Waters documents changes Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan or Azerbaijan — three countries that touch the Caspian Sea and were for 70 years part of the Soviet Union.

“They are going through total reinvention—the new world, new society, and new futures pushed to rise with the help with oil and gas resources from the Caspian Sea,” says Teshaieva. “This idea of ‘new’ gives particular promises to people.”

Read the full piece and see more here.

Museum of Cosmos. 2013 A museum of Cosmos in Ashgabad, the capital of Turkmenistan that holds five Guinness records; the latest is having Òthe most white marble-clad buildingsÓ in the world. Turkmenistan, 2013

Fisherman with his nets. 2010 Fisherman gathers his nets in a poaching hut at Pirallahi island. As no other work exists outside the capital, people living along the sea are turning to the poaching, which is largely covered by bribes. The Caspian Sea is overfished for years, and the sturgeon is currently close to complete extinction. Azerbaijan, 2010

Ruins of Soviet holiday resort. 2011 The ruins of Soviet luxury restaurant at Buzovna resort near Baku. The restaurant was closed and the beach is now out of bounds as it appeared to be too close to the walls of president Aliyev's holiday house. Azerbaijan, 2011

Family house. 2010 Internally displaced people from Karabakh live in cardboard homes at abandoned industrial factory in Baku since twenty years. They have never got any aid from government despite managed to build new life in these inhuman conditions. Azerbaijan. 2010

Official in his office. 2010 An official of Narimanabad village in his office. Azerbaijan. 2010

Untitled (Quba). 2011 Soviet era books are collected to trash in a former library in Quba. The alphabet in the country was changed from Cyrillic to Turkish after the independence and history of the country is now being re-writen, thus most of Soviet books became not needed. Azerbaijan. 2011

Past of Kenderli. 2011 A women stays near her house in abandoned soviet holiday camp at Kenderli beach. Current the camp is demolished and soon will become a luxury resort with planned 6 billion dollars investments. Kazakhstan. 2011

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