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Eugene Richards

On assignment documenting Guantánamo Bay for this week’s issue of TIME, photographer Eugene Richards spent several days at the infamous detention facility. Here, Richards writes for LightBox about how he approached the assignment and the distinct challenges he faced working under the tight restrictions imposed on the media by the U.S. military. 

When TIME asked me to go to Guantánamo, I immediately thought back to 9/11 — to the smoke and ruin of that fatal day, to Bush’s declaration of the war on terror, then to the first images from the prison: of men in orange jumpsuits shackled, blindfolded, handcuffed, sensory-deprived. These men, often viewed in silhouette and on their knees in prayer, were often picked up on the battlefield in Afghanistan by military units, although some were captured after bounties of as much as $5000 per head were paid. My first thoughts were to 9/11, of interrogations, secrecy, torture and military might.

And then there was the series of military-issued disclaimers I would have to agree to. I wouldn’t be permitted to photograph, or even see, the detainees. I couldn’t show the guards’ faces, and I would only be able to photograph the pre-ordained locations within the camp. And finally, I had to agree to having my work edited — to turn over my cards so that images could be deleted or cropped as per the opinion of the public information staff accompanying me the entire assignment. ‘Can you make pictures out of nothing?’ I asked myself, then prepared for the trip.

It took two plane flights to get down to Guantánamo and a ferry ride across to the prison camp proper. I made photographs on the boat, but because they were of soldiers, they would become the first pictures deleted by the military. Once off the ferry, Guantánamo became small town America, replete with miles of brand-new looking green-lawned suburban houses. There was a McDonald’s along the road, a Subway sandwich shop, bar-and-grills and a dry landscape of thorny bushes and cactus. Iguanas, looking absurdly out of place, lay often in pairs at the edges of roadways running to and from the prison, munching on the low vegetation. Because they are a protected species, all traffic would come to a stop as they took their time swish-swashing from place to place.

I was put up in a condo of sorts, then had dinner with my minder, Sgt. Brian Godette. The next morning, he asked me what I wanted to see. My assignment from TIME was just to see what I could see, so Brian, out of sympathy, brought me out to the one place that I could visit at will: the now infamous Camp X-Ray.

This is the place, he explained, where the first detainees were brought in 2002 — close to 300 of them, he said. So I followed this young, affable soldier through the gate and up a dirt road, to aisles upon aisles of what could only be regarded as animal cages — six-foot-by-eight-foot concrete-floored cells enclosed on all sides and on top with chain link. They were all glaring light and shadows at this time of the morning, offering no protection from the sun so broiling hot, even though this was only springtime. Vines wound up through the see-through ceilings, grass cracked the concrete and the wind was blowing. Plump hutias, also known as banana rats, nested along the metal supports. Still, it wasn’t hard to imagine the place at night, when the air would be filled with mosquitoes, when the rain would blow in unobstructed. I was also shown the summer-camp-cabin looking interrogation building where, according to some reports, torture took place. Camp X-Ray, Brian went on to tell me, was closed later that year, the detainees transferred to other areas in the military prison.

The first “editing session” happened later that day, when the previous day’s images from the ferry were deleted by Brian. What I remember next was the 4 a.m. wake-up.

Along with a two-man TV crew, I was led in the near dark through four or five electronic doors onto the hallway of Camp V for pre-dawn prayers. No prisoners could be seen. No faces, no hands. All there was to see were the openings in steel doors as the guards wearing protective face shields (since detainees, we were told, spit and throw waste at them) walked up and down the block. As if in cadence, they stopped occasionally at individual cells to peer in, to whisper, to hand over medicines to inmates said to be fasting. After twenty minutes, the prayers finally seemed to drift away and the food carts were ushered in, then ushered out. Because there were few, if any, takers, we were led out of the prison.

At one point earlier in the day, the faces of detainees did appear in the elongated windows above an entryway. Dark-skinned, long-bearded men looked down at us. A TV cameraman pointed his camera in that direction, only to be cautioned that his footage would later be erased.

I returned at 5 a.m. the following morning and was ushered through the gates onto a different cell block, all too aware that some of the photographs I’d taken the previous morning had been deleted. I also wanted to hear the prayers again.

And so I went on what could only be called a media tour. The most surreal moment came during our exposure to the force-feeding apparatus. After all, that’s why the media was here — the hunger strike that had been going on since February loomed large in the debate about the camp. Surrounded by three or four media personnel and an equal number of medical personnel, we were ushered past the crash beds in the detainee hospital into a large, empty room. Dead center, beneath a single fluorescent panel, was the restraining chair. A display of the force-feeding apparatus included a bottle of the liquid nutrient Ensure and two sizes of tubing that could be put up the noses of detainees who refused to eat. As the TV camera rolled, medical personnel explained, without a hint of doubt, that the force-feeding process is not at all unpleasant (olive oil, you see, is employed as a lubricant as the tube is snaked up through the detainee’s nose and down his throat) and that, despite what others in the medical field might say, the long-term consumption of Ensure does no lasting damage.

And just like that, when I was feeling that my week was just beginning, it was over. I was upset that it was over. Before boarding the flight back to the U.S., there was one more pre-planned stop on the tour: the visit to a Gitmo gift shop, for t-shirts and figurines of Fidel Castro. But then even after the lift-off, I couldn’t rid myself of the feeling — and still can’t get rid of it now — that even though I put some time in, and that I now have some pictures that say I’ve been to Gitmo, the truth is that I have never really been there.

Eugene Richards is an award-winning American photographer.

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The second collection of images from 2012 once again brought us nature at its full force and beauty along with news and daily life coming from countries like Russia, Syria, Egypt, England, India and Italy. The following is a compilation - not meant to be comprehensive in any way - of images from the second 4 months of 2012. Please see part 1 from Monday and here's part 3. -- Lloyd Young ( 47 photos total)
Tightrope walker Nik Wallenda walks the high wire from the United States side to the Canadian side over the Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario, on June 15. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

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The sport of yağlı güreş, or oil wrestlingis at the heart of Kırkpınar, a festival in the Turkish city of Edirne. Thousands of people will come to see these wrestlers—slick with olive oil—compete in the 651st annual games on July 2. It’ll be a familiar sight for Turkish photographer Pari Dukovic, who attended the event in 2010 and 2011.

“I saw that the sport had an Old World charm to it—the festival, the prayers, the music, the instruments, the outfits,” says Pari, who used to watch the festival’s coverage as a teenager. “I am drawn to subject matter that makes you feel as though you are traveling through time and Kırkpınar fascinated me with its history and how it has remained an integral part of Turkish culture.”

As the festival begins, drum and horn players parade through the city with the sports’ grand prize—the Kırkpınar Golden Belt. The community then meets in the grand 16th century Selimiye Mosque, where the imam gives a sermon in honor of competitors past and present. For the young boys participating in the traditional Turkish coming-of-age ceremony known as Sunnet Dugunu, it’s desirable to celebrate it at the same time as Kırkpınar, as the festival represents to many the ultimate in male achievement. The boy in the mosque in slide #10 wears the ornate cape associated with the ritual.

After the sermon, wrestlers pray at the graves of legendary sportsmen and proceed through the streets to the competition field, singing the national anthem. The master of ceremony introduces the wrestlers to the audience, reciting their names, titles and skills in verse. Very few of the wrestlers, who range widely in age, make a living from the sport. Nevertheless, Pari says he got the clear sense that being a part of this event is a dream come true for them. “They train for a whole year and often travel from villages all over Turkey to participate, so becoming a Kırkpınar wrestler is an achievement they take great pride in,” he says. The wrestlers, wearing nothing but short leather trousers, get rubbed down with olive oil. This makes the goal of the match—to throw one’s opponent on his back—all the more difficult. The matches last about 30 minutes each, while the final bout can last up to two exhausting hours.

“I think the dedication that goes into what they do is amazing,” says Pari. “I hope that my photographs stand as visual documents of this tradition and that my respect is captured in these images.”

Pari Dukovic is a New York City based documentary photographer. See more of his work here

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TEDxSantaMonica - Casey Corn - Olive Oil is Everything

Born and raised in Santa Monica, Casey has always been a passionate eater. When life took her in an anthropological direction, she discovered the inextricable relationship between food and identity. After all, with a name like Casey Love Corn, you learn early on that food is a rather large part of who you are. While achieving a degree in anthropology from Connecticut College, Casey also earned honors and distinction for her thesis, a study of olive oil. Currently, you can find Casey at any of the three Caffe Luxxe shops in Santa Monica and Brentwood, making great coffee, and trying to uphold her title of latte art champion. Or, check out www.anatomyofasandwich.com and see what she has to say about sandwiches. About TEDx, x = independently organized event: In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)
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ESSAY CONTAINS EXPLICIT CONTENT

Valentina Riccardi

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play this essay

 

Most of my work happens in Ibiza, Spain, where I decided to live a few years ago to merge and integrate in a community and discover a way of living that was far from what I knew, having grown in a big city, but very close to what I have always aspired to. I didn’t realize that this inspiration would eventually become a huge part of my photographic practice, a photographic story. I started to photograph the people I lived with, to document  the life there. Over time, this became an intimate and personal project.

Ibiza is an island in the Mediterranean Sea where the local people and the hippies merged at the end of the 60’s. At that time, Ibiza became one of the popular places to live “freedom”. What intrigued me is the fact that in the midst of all the corruption (drug dealing, partying and real estate dealing), you can still find people who want to live outside society, self-sufficient, living their lives in a humble way and pursuing other values rather than materialism, emphasizing values like sense of community and harmony with nature and themselves.

Several houses on the island are inhabited by squatters who pay no rent. And if most of the time they are allowed to live there, they don’t have the security you get if the house was private. Most of those houses (sometimes hotels) are ruins that are renovated and inhabited quite normally. I would like to show how those places are transformed and take cared for, show the way the space is used, the way they live in their community, ecologically and very creatively.

No rent, no power, no faucets, and all this by choice. Water comes from a well, the washing machine runs with a pedal mechanism, power is a gift from the sun. Not far from drunken British tourists and disco boys and girls full of Ecstasy, this is a totally different world. It’s Pink Floyd 40 years later, but with a different dream: no more utopia, just life, essential life.

I wish to document people and places that represent this lifestyle and would like to show this minority that decided to leave the struggle of the city, to get closer to the nature.

 

Bio

I was born in Brussels from a Belgo-Italian family in 1987.  I lived in Spain for several years before moving to NY to study at the International Center of Photography. I started to photograph what surrounded me, work with images in familiar situations and document the everyday life.

I am based in Ibiza now, where I plan to pursue this photographic essay. Being my first long term project I plan to dedicate myself fully in this passion, create images. I consider this an amazing journey and know there will be more, because life is a perpetual movement.

 

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Valentina Riccardi

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A salt spreader dangled three stories high Wednesday after it crashed though a wall at a Sanitation Department repair facility in Queens. The cause of the crash is under investigation. (Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal)


Firefighters Jason Corlett, Garon Mosby and Tommy Defrancisci remarked on Justin Reid’s abdominal muscles Wednesday in front of Little Town Restaurant near Union Square.The firefighters were selected from around the country to appear in a charity calendar called ‘Nation’s Bravest.’ (Bryan Derballa for The Wall Street Journal )


Con Ed workers, firefighters, and DOT employees rushed to 152nd Street and St. Nicholas Avenue last Friday when a sinkhole opened up because of a broken water main. (Daniella Zalcman for The Wall Street Journal)


The ‘mangled berry’ cocktail, made with muddled strawberries, lemon, pear vodka and ginger ale at 508 GastroBrewery in Soho (Agaton Strom for The Wall Street Journal)


Runners participated in the City Parks Foundation’s 10th annual CityParks Track & Field Citywide Championships Wednesday at Icahn Stadium in Randall’s Island, N.Y. (Ramsay de Give for The Wall Street Journal )


The grilled cheese at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese at 900 Broadway in Manhattan. (Ramsay de Give for The Wall Street Journal)


From left, Ramani Durvasula, Maya Hinkin and Ingrid Schwartz talked Wednesday inside one of the three meeting bowls in Times Square. The Meeting Bowls are a public art installation by the Spanish art collective ‘mmmm’ and were created to encourage dialogue between users. (Bryan Derballa for The Wall Street Journal )


The fire-grilled flatbread pizza with figs, Serrano ham, blue cheese, olive oil and sage at 508 GastroBrewery in Soho. (Agaton Strom for The Wall Street Journal)


Children played in a flooded pool Sunday in Flushing Meadows Park in Queens. (Ramsay de Give for The Wall Street Journal)

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