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Housing over 2,500 squatters on 28 of its 45 floors, the Tower of David is a half-finished structure in Caracas, Venezuela, populated with displaced people. Like the now-vanished Kowloon Walled City or a huge vertical tent city, it is feared by officials and runs by its own rules. Its residents pool resources, including skills and money, to create and maintain independent and communal water supplies, plumbing and power grids.

Even the police are afraid to enter this effectively lawless structure, but through friends one video journalist was given permission to tour and film the facility – you can follow his adventure via the video above.

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Jorge Benezra

His name is Wilmer Brizuela, Wilmito to his friends, but to the inmates of Vista Hermosa, he is simply the Pran, the unquestioned leader of one of Venezuela’s notorious prisons. Outside its walls, the Venezuelan national guard patrols; inside, the inmates live and die in a world of their own making. Brizuela has occasionally allowed reporters to visit for a few hours, but earlier this year, he gave photojournalist Sebastián Liste and me exclusive, full access to the prison for more than a week, revealing an improvised society that mirrors the one outside.

Brizuela, who is serving sentences of 10 years for kidnapping and 16 years for murder, believes that his rule over the 1,400 inmates of Vista Hermosa (Beautiful View) in the southern state of Bolívar is more humane than that of the Venezuelan prison authorities, who have been widely criticized by human-rights groups for the overcrowding, poor living conditions and corruption in the country’s prisons. Gang violence is rampant; last year 591 inmates were killed, according to the Venezuelan Observatory of Prisons, a watchdog group. Under strongman Hugo Chávez, advocates and journalists who reported on abuses in Venezuela’s prisons faced intimidation and threats of violence; conditions have not improved since Chávez’s death.

Vista Hermosa is emblematic of these problems. Built in the 1950s to house 650 inmates, it now houses more than twice that number. As the population grew, clashes between prisoners and guards became common. Rather than improve conditions, prison authorities have allowed them to descend into near chaos. Since Brizuela, a champion boxer, and his gang took control of Vista Hermosa by force in 2005, drug use and violence are still widespread but tightly controlled. “So far we have achieved peace and a minimum of decent human living standards,” Brizuela says.

Entering Vista Hermosa during visiting hours feels a bit like stepping into the streets of a bustling slum. There are open-air vendors selling DVDs, medicine and snacks amid the unbearable heat and thumping techno music. There are plazas for dancing and a more formal ballroom for parties. In these areas, visiting women and children walk freely, the iron bars have been removed and the walls are freshly painted. The prison, like any society, has distinct subcultures. There are Christian evangelists, called varones, who live, pray and sing together and work hard to keep their spaces clean. Gay inmates have their own quarters, where they can live without fear of harassment.

Vista Hermosa feels like an extreme version of Venezuela itself, in microcosm. Along with the families and celebrations, there is violence and despair. Dozens of addicts, their bodies withered by crack and other drugs, smoke and sleep in rows of hammocks or on piles of trash. Men serving time for sex crimes live in an area far removed from the other inmates. And this society of prisoners has a prison of its own the zone known as La Guerrilla, where gandules, the renegade inmates who have violated Vista Hermosa’s unwritten code, are kept under armed guard. Their inmate-jailers make surveillance rounds night and day armed with pistols, high-caliber revolvers and automatic rifles.

Prisons like Vista Hermosa, which Brizuela says generates about $3 million a year in profit from illegal activities and weekly taxes paid to the Pran by the inmates, could not function without the complicity of corrupt officials who allow drugs and weapons inside. Even the Pran fears them. As Brizuela puts it, “The arms are for protecting us from the national
guard.”

Jorge Benezra is a journalist based in Venezuela. Follow him on Twitter @JorgeBenezra.

Sebastián Liste is a Brazil-based photographer. In September 2012, he received the Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography and the City of Perpignan Rémi Ochlik Award. LightBox previously published Liste’s work documenting the community living in an abandoned chocolate factory. Follow him on Twitter @SebastianListe.

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Ian Willms

At the heart of the Mennonite religion, you’ll find an unwavering commitment to nonresistance that has endured five centuries of oppression and violent atrocities. This work is a photographic ode to an endless journey that my Mennonite ancestors undertook in the name of peace.

Right from their origins in the 16th and 17th centuries, Mennonites in the Netherlands were hunted down by the Catholic Church and publicly tortured to death because of their Christian beliefs. This prompted the Mennonites to migrate to Poland, where they remained for a century until the state began to force them into military service. In the late 18th century, the Mennonites chose to migrate again — this time to Ukraine and Russia.

On a bitterly cold winter night, in the midst of the Russian Revolution, Bolshevik soldiers arrived at my family’s doorstep. They forced 48 Mennonite men to walk from house to house at gunpoint using them as human shields as they stormed the non-Mennonite homes; my great grandfather was one of three survivors from that group. During the revolution, entire Mennonite villages were wiped off the map in nighttime massacres that saw men, women and children struck down by Bolshevik soldiers on horseback. Those who were able to escape with their lives would return to their villages the following day to bury their neighbours and families in unmarked mass graves before beginning new lives as refugees. Throughout their history, the Mennonites have been repeatedly faced with the same decision: Take up arms and abandon your faith, leave your home behind and give up everything you have worked for in your life, or die where you stand.

In 2012, I decided to re-trace the refugee migrations of the Mennonites to witness the places where they lived and died. I followed their historical journey through The Netherlands, Germany, Poland and Ukraine, photographing the communities, farmland, execution sites and mass graves that had been left behind. The path on which I traveled emulated the nomadic history of the Mennonites, while I searched for a feeling of familiarity and a connection to the former homes of my distant relatives. In most places along the migration route, the lingering presence of the Mennonites was little more than a collection of memories; a pockmarked gravestone; the mossy foundations of a farmhouse; a group of blurry faces, locked away in a history textbook. I found myself sifting through peaceful cow pastures and rural villages, seeking the ghosts of unimaginable heartbreak and tragedy.

The process of carrying out this work took an emotional toll, but the experience taught me to admire the Mennonites for their immense personal sacrifices. The Mennonites gave up community, prosperity and even faced death because they believed in the statement of nonresistance. I feel that if the places in these photographs could speak, they would tell us that hostilities brought against pacifist peoples are more than an injustice; they are an attack upon the hope for peace within our world.

Ian Willms is a photographer based in Toronto. He is currently represented by Getty Images Emerging Talent.

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Guy Martin

Two years ago, after being wounded in Libya, I made a promise to myself, my family, friends and loved ones to never cover war, civil unrest, protests or even a particularly robust political debate ever again. After witnessing the unfolding of the Arab revolutions in Egypt and Libya, my desire to witness and photograph violent events had never been lower. In short, I had turned my back on anybody and anything that I thought would cause me harm.

However, I do live in Istanbul — a huge, bustling Turkish metropolis that is currently at the center of mix of foreign policy dilemmas, political strife and internal debates.

And this weekend, I’ve witnessed a burgeoning protest movement against the construction of another mall and shopping precinct on one of the few slivers of green space in a city that is increasingly urbanized. Corruption seems to be endemic, and any spare green area is quickly developed without any public consultation.

I wanted to join the protestors to see for myself what was happening 25 minutes from where I live. As I stepped on the metro, I was hit with a knot in my stomach — that swirling, vomit-inducing feeling that only happens when you are utterly petrified. Istanbul’s locals aren’t known for being particularly outgoing, chatty or forthcoming on public transit, and Saturday was no different. It seemed just like any other normal day.

But then the train came to a stop, and every carriage erupted with loud clapping and banging on any object that came into view. It continued as the people made their way up the escalators into the burning mid-day heat.

For the next two days I followed them from the peripheries. Tear gas was fired, barricades were constructed, fires burned and stones thrown. Angry anarchists confronted police in Gezi Park — where I saw mothers bring their young children to witness a momentous event happening in their city.

These pictures were made with no assignment in hand and no particular desire to even make a coherent body of work. My purpose was to just witness and to observe with a sharper eye from experience.

Guy Martin is an English documentary photographer living in Istanbul. Represented by Panos Pictures, Martin previously covered the Caucuses, Georgia and Russia as well as the uprisings in Egypt and Libya.

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TIME Photo Department

TIME LightBox presents our monthly round-up of the best books, exhibitions and ways to experience photography beyond the web—from the Steve McCurry exhibition in Colorado and the 55th Venice Biennale to Roger Ballen’s ‘Portraits from South Africa’ in Los Angeles and the Belfast Photo Festival.

‘The Guide’ on LightBox will be published monthly. If you have submissions or suggestions for upcoming round-ups of the best books and exhibitions, feel free to pass them along via email before June 15. We’ll also be updating this gallery throughout the month.

See the previous editions of The Guide:

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burn magazine

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ESSAY CONTAINS EXPLICIT CONTENT

Zaida González Ríos

Primera Comunión

play this essay

 

My intention is to critique the traditions and social references of Western culture, as well as use irony in questioning certain canons, such as the idealization of the body in advertising and media, the role of gender, and a consumer based existence due to globalization and individualism in an environment that is marked by an increase in the disposable.

I seek to show something different: that which is not well regarded or accepted, an escape from what we have been taught to “behold and admire.” This is manifested with ordinary models, average people who would not otherwise be photographed for an advertising campaign.

With the inclusion of dead and deformed babies in the photographs, I intend to rescue people that were abandoned without a proper farewell. I want to dignify them, transporting them into a picture, surrounded by objects and symbolism to leave them history so that they do not go unnoticed or ignored. I confront the viewer with the truth, one that weighs on the conscience of agricultural industries, since the indiscriminate use of toxic pesticides every year cause children to be born with and die from physiological and physical deformities. This fact is hidden from society by companies that have economic power in our country.

With the lighting techniques used in the images (black and white pictures painted by hand) and small format, I intend to create a break between the form and substance, softening and dislodging the message.

 

Bio

1977, San Miguel, Santiago de Chile.

Photographer and veterinarian.

Zaida received her degree in commercial photograhy but has since dedicated herself exclusively to personal projects, exhibiting her work in various group and solo exhibitions in Chile.

Her work has been featured internationally in Colombia, Argentina, USA, Belgium, Peru, Spain, Uruguay, Venezuela, Spain, France, Portugal and Mexico.

She currently teaches photography in the Escuela de Comunicaciones Alpes and works as a freelance veterinarian.

She has authored 3 books to date: “Las Novias de Antonio” (La Revista, 2009), ” Recuérdame al morir con mi último latido” (2010) and “Zaida Gonzalez De Guarda” (2013). Her last two books were published independently with the help of her brother, designer Marco Gonzalez.

She was the recipient of four photography scholarships from Fondart (2005, 2008, 2009 and 2011) and was a resident of fine art photography for Nelson Garrido in Valparaiso (2010).

In 2007 and 2011 she was nominated for the Altazor award for her work “Conservatorio Celestial” and “Recuérdame al morir con mi último latido,” respectively.

In 2012 she won the Rodrigo Rojas De Negri award and national recognition in emerging photography.

In 2013 she was awarded a grant from the DIRAC for a residency she completed with the NGO (Organización Nelson Garrido) in Caracas, Venezuela.

 

Related links

Zaida González Ríos

 

 

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Original author: 
Mikko Takkunen

Features and Essays

Kirsten Luce for the New York Times

Kirsten Luce for the New York Times

Kirsten Luce: A Border Evolves as Washington Pursues Immigration Reform (NYT)

Ricardo Cases: ¡Evangélicos! (LightBox) Intensity, Isolation, and Fiesta

Ilona Szwarc: The Cowgirl Way (NYT Magazine)

Peter Hapak: Portraits of the Gay Marriage Revolution (LightBox)

Jeff Brown: Bar Regulars (NYT Magazine) This Is Who Rules the Bars of New York

Nina Berman:  Stop-and-Frisk (Photo Booth)

Carlos Javier Ortiz: Too Young To Die (Pulitzer Center) Chicago’s Gang Violence

Shannon Stapleton: North Dakota Booming (Reuters)

Lisa Wiltse: Mary’s Pageant (Reportage by Getty Images)

Sebastian Liste

Sebastian Liste / Reportage by Getty Images

Sebastian Liste: In The Wake Of Chavez (Reportage by Getty Images)

Alvaro Ybarra Zavala: The Legacy of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Liberator (Reportage by Getty Images)

Jorge Cabrera: Death in the murder capital (Reuters) Honduras

Bryan Denton: Afghan Army Taking the Lead (NYT)

Bryan Denton: Hardships in Afghan Refugee Camps (NYT)

John D. McHugh: Observe The Sons of Afghan Marching Towards The War (Reportage by Getty Images)

Sebastião Salgado / Amazonas / Contact Press Images

Sebastião Salgado / Amazonas / Contact Press Images

Sebastião Salgado: Genesis (LightBox)

Adam Dean: Myanmar Grapples With Ethnic Tensions (NYT)

Sim Chi Yin: Fragile Lake (The Straits Times) Burma

Stephen Dock: Mali, the new gold rush (Agence Vu)

Marco Grob: International Mine Action Day: Portraits (LightBox)

Abbie Trayler-Smith: The Spring that Wasn’t (Panos) Yemen

Hatem Moussa: How to Make Charcoal in Gaza (TIME)

Andrea Bruce: Christians in Syria Celebrate Good Friday With Hope and Fear (NYT)

Kalpesh Lathigra: Za’atari refugee camp (The Independent) Syrian refugee crisis

Peter Hove Olesen: Assad (Politiken) Syria

Lynsey Addario / VII

Lynsey Addario / VII

Lynsey Addario: Mortal Beloved (New Republic) The extreme perils of motherhood in Sierra Leone

Diana Matar: Return to Libya (Photo Booth)

Karla Gachet and Ivan Kashinsky: Kings of the Roma (NYT Lens)

Tomas van Houtryve: No Man’s Land (The Foreign Policy) Exclusive photos from the 38th parallel.

Sergio Ramazzotti: North Korea: Inside the utopia (Parallelo Zero)

Evi Zoupanos: Acid Attack (zReportage) Bangladesh

Mike Brodie: A Period of Juvenile Prosperity (Guardian)

Gert Jochems: S (Agence Vu)

Matthieu Rytz: The Eroding Culture of Kuna Yala (NYT Lens) Panama

Stephen McLaren: Wading into weirdness on the street (NYT Lens)

Benjamin Lowy: The First Signs of Spring in Brooklyn (NYT Magazine)

Chad A. Stevens: West Virginia Mining (CNN photo blog)

David Kasnic: Rattlesnake Roundup: Texas style (CNN photo blog)

Benjamin Bechet: El Hierro (CNN photo blog) An ‘everlasting island’ | Spain

Articles

KCNA / AFP / Getty Images

KCNA / AFP / Getty Images

Detecting North Korea’s doctored photos (AFP Correspondent blog)

North Korea ‘Photoshopped’ marine landings photograph (The Telegraph)

War’s Bricolage (No Caption Needed)

Photographer Sebastião Salgado captures areas of Earth untouched by modern life (Metro)

Ron Haviv’s Bosnian War Images as Evidence in War Trials (NYT Lens)

Sebastian Junger Shoots for the Truth (Outside) Junger’s powerful new documentary about the life of war photographer Tim Hetherington shows us why dedicated journalists are needed now more than ever

HBO documentary on the life and death of conflict photographer Tim Hetherington premieres next month (The Verge)

Inside the War Machine: New Documentary Maps an Epic Photo Career (Wired Rawfile)

Famed photojournalist Robert Capa and the mystery of his “Mexican Suitcase” (Imaging Resource)

Edmund Clark: control order house (FT Magazine)

George Strock / Time Life Pictures / Getty Images

George Strock / Time Life Pictures / Getty Images

Photo That Was Hard to Get Published, but Even Harder to Get (NYT Lens) One of the most significant war photographs in American history is routinely taken for granted.

Syria’s Media War (The Daily Beast)

Fake Somali Pirates Scam Western Journalists (The Daily Beast)

At War with the Obvious: Photographs by William Eggleston (Photo Booth)

William Eggleston’s photographs of eerie Americana – in pictures (Guardian)

War reporting documentary wins prestigious Peabody Award (Star.com)

The girl in the 2011 Afghan bombing photograph (The Independent)

Snaps by Elliott Erwitt – review (Guardian)

Chim: Photography’s forgotten hero (The Jewish Chronicle)

Femen gets kick in the pants (but not on Facebook) (AFP Correspondent blog)

AP opens full news bureau in Myanmar (AP Big Story)

Photojournalists Move To Instagram, From Syria to Sandy (American Photo)

Traditional Photographers Should Be Horrified By The Cover Of Today’s New York Times (Business Insider)

NYT’s front-page Instagram: Maybe not the end of photography (Poynter)

Instagram and the New Era of Paparazzi (NYT)

Hyper-Realistic CGI Is Killing Photographers, Thrilling Product Designers (Wired)

Tim A. Hetherington

Tim A. Hetherington

The Guide: April 2013 Edition (LightBox) TIME LightBox presents a new monthly round-up of the best books, exhibitions and ways to experience photography beyond the web

The month in photography  (The Guardian) New exhibitions and books by William Eggleston, Sebastião Salgado, Kitra Cahana and Pieter Hugo are featured in this month’s guide to the best photography around the world.

Someone I Know (Someoneiknow.net)  Project bringing together some of the best known emerged and emerging photographers from across the globe. The brief for the photographers was to take a portrait of someone they know, no matter how loosely.

The Ethics of Street Photography (Joerg Colberg)

The Age of “Fauxtojournalism” (Chicago Tribune Assignment Chicago blog)

Bobby’s Book: Bruce Davidson’s Photographs of the Brooklyn Gang The Jokers (Photo Booth)

Magnum Photos approaches new audiences in deal with Vice magazine (British Journal of Photography)

MJR – Collection 100 / A history (Vimeo)

Review: Liquid Land by Rena Effendi (Joerg Colberg)

Uncharted Territories: Black Maps by David Maisel (LightBox)

Classical Portraits of Extreme Plastic Surgery (Slate Behold photo blog)

From Desert to City: A Photographer Unveils Forgotten Stars (LightBox)

Paul McDonough : Shooting film on the move (CNN photo blog)

A Look at the Pristine: Walter Niedermayr’s Aspen Series (LightBox)

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo’s Photos From His Native Cuba (NYT Lens)

Larry Racioppo’s Photos of Good Friday Processions In Brooklyn (NYT Lens)

Gillian Laub : On Passover, Celebrating Life and Ritual in a Jewish Family (Slate Behold photo blog)

McNair Evans: Chasing hope on the railways (CNN photo blog)

Ahn Sehong : Comfort Women in China (NYT Lens)

Henri Huet / AP

Henri Huet / AP

An Expansive Exhibition of War Images at the Annenberg Space in Los Angeles (NYT Lens)

Anatomy of a Successful Grant Application: Joseph Rodriguez on the Audience Engagement Grant (PDN)

Crowd-Sourcing, Part One: Ask And You Shall Receive (NPPA)

The Photographer’s Guide to Copyright (PhotoShelter)

Featured photographer: Paolo Patrizi  (Verve Photo)

Featured photographer: Abbie Trayler-Smith (Firecracker)

Judge Rules William Eggleston Can Clone His Own Work, Rebuffing Angry Collector (Artinfo)

Judge Rules William Eggleston Can Clone His Own Work (Joerg Colberg)

How Joachim Brohm set the world of landscape photography on fire (The Guardian)

Thoughts on the TIME Gay Marriage (or, Gay Sex?) Covers (BagNewsNotes)

Can 20×200 Be Saved? Anger From Collectors Mounts as Leading Art Site Flounders (Artinfo.com)

Henry Groskinsky / Time & Life Pictures / Getty Image

Henry Groskinsky / Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images

The Day MLK Was Assassinated: A Photographer’s Story  (LIFE) On April 4, 1968, LIFE photographer Henry Groskinsky and writer Mike Silva, on assignment in Alabama, learned that Martin Luther King, Jr., had been shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. The two men jumped into their car, raced the 200 miles to the scene of the assassination

Photographer Who Shot Beatles Concert With a Fake Press Pass Sells the Pics for $45K (PetaPixel)

Camera Finds Way Back to Owner After Drifting 6,200 Miles from Hawaii to Taiwan (PetaPixel)

Photographer Accuses Getty of Loaning Images to CafePress Instead of Licensing Them (PetaPixel)

Photographing a Mother’s Descent Into Mental Illness (Mother Jones)

Review: Tales of Tono by Daido Moriyama (Joerg Colberg)

The new war poets: the photographs of Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin (The Telegraph)

LaToya Ruby Frazier Photography at Brooklyn Museum (NYT)

Makoko exhibition opens a window on a Nigerian world (The Guardian)

Distance & Desire: Encounters with the African Archive (Photo Booth)

Rene Burri in colour (BBC)

Helmut Newton Book ‘World Without Men’ Returns (The Daily Beast)

Interviews and Talks

Dominic Nahr / Magnum Photos

Dominic Nahr / Magnum Photos

Dominic Nahr (Leica blog) Recording History for Posterity

Sebastião Salgado (Monocle Radio) Salgado interview starts at 13 minutes into the show

Mike Brodie (Guardian) On his freight train photographs: ‘It’s a romantic life, at least in the spring and summer’

Andrew DeVigal (Wired RawFile blog) Smart Readers Are Too Distracted to Dig Smart Content

Carlos  Javier Ortiz (CBS News) Photographer brings Chicago gun violence into sharp focus | slideshow on CBS News website 

Jenn Ackerman (Slate Behold photo blog) Trapped: The Story of the Mentally Ill in Prison

Farzana Wahidy (NPR) How A Female Photographer Sees Her Afghanistan

Andrea Bruce / The New York Times

Andrea Bruce   / The New York Times

Andrea Bruce (NOOR) My first day in Damascus

Steve McCurry (Vice)

Raghu Rai (Visura Magazine)

Mohamed Abdiwahab (LightBox Tumblr)

Bert Stern (LightBox)  The Original ‘Mad Man’

Duane Michaels (Bomb blog)

Gregory Crewdson (The Telegraph) Gregory Crewdson’s silent movies

Maika Elan (Vietnam News)

Lisa Rose (The Chicago Tribune Assignment Chicago blog) The Goals of PhotoPhilanthropy

Shannon Jensen (The Daily Pennsylvanian) No ‘fancy pictures’, just tell the story

Alice Proujansky (The Guardian) Alice Proujansky’s best photograph – childbirth in the Dominican Republic

Camille Seaman (Piper Mackay Photography)

 Zhe Chen (Le Journal de la Photographie)

Guillem Valle (Leica blog) Transporting The Viewer Through Photographs

Stanley Forman (Boston Globe) Photojournalist Stanley Forman on his new book

Bill Armstrong (Aperture)

Thomas Ruff (Aperture)

Misha Friedman (Dazed Digital)

John Kilar (Dazed Digital)

Daniel Cronin (Dazed Digital)

Awards, Grants, and Competitions

Upcoming Deadlines for Grants, Fellowships Up to $10,000 (PDN)

PROOF : Award for Emerging Photojournalists  : Deadline May 1, 2013

NPPF Scholarship : Deadline April 15, 2013

Lens Culture student photography awards 2013 : Deadline April 15, 2013

72nd Annual Peabody Awards: Complete List of Winners (Peabody)

Best of Photojournalism 2013 Multimedia Winners

Photographic Museum of Humanity 2013 Grant Winners

William Eggleston to receive Outstanding Contribution to Photography award (British Journal of Photography) Also on The Guardian here.

Mikko Takkunen is an associate photo editor at TIME.com.

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As usual in this kind of international photo competition, there's a couple of winning shots about Palestine, some portraits of magnificently coiffed people, plenty of violent deaths, prisoners living in dire conditions and almost half of these talented photographers are Italian. I'm very impressed by the Afrometals series, btw continue

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