3 weeks ago
Saturday, 30 July 2011
Following a series of links from an article about war photography some night last week, I came across these photos on the site Military Photos: apparently, the first photographic documentation of war.
"Embedded," essentially, with an American legion pushing into northern Mexico, no one knows who shot them. They were shot as glass-plated daguerreotypes - hence the weird scratchiness - and form an eerie portrait of wars before wars were photographed and documented as thoroughly as today's war correspondents can - or cannot - get away with.
The amputation, the grave and the seated photo "Mexican civilians.." remind of McCarthy's epic dystopia from this campaign, "Blood Meridian." (Arguably the best book of the current generation.) The hollow, silvery look in the eyes, and the almost 3-D feeling of some pics are captivating.
After finding this, Ms. Scarlett Lion pointed me to another project, The Mexican Suitcase. Through a circuitous (and historically unclear) route, this photo documentation of the Spanish Civil War reached Mexico as the photographers fled the spread of Nazism and WWII. In 2007 the dilapidated boxes arrived in New York from Mexico, and are on display with the International Center for Photography.
Not as interesting from a Mexican historical perspective, but still a cool tale of keeping war photos alive. And if that's what you into, go get your procrastinate on.
Posted by Esteyonage at 14:27
Tuesday, 26 July 2011
FOTO Crime Scene, Villanueva, Guatemala City
Yesterday, a friend linked to a piece from Tijuana's El Zonkey Show (The Zonkey being a beast unique to the once-touristed streets that would be a donkey, had it not been painted with black and white for aforementioned touristic attracting). It features a picture of a small dog with a massive bullet wound, who later died. The dog was shot by a Juárez cop, in Juárez. The story is here.
Who cares? That was my first thought. Its one pinche perro, after all, in a city with one of the highest violent crime rates in the world. This feeling was accentuated by seeing news this morning that 17 people were killed overnight in Juárez - cartel clashes, being the stated cause. (17 people is roughly 1/5 the number of people killed in Norway that has provoked an international media orgy; and 6 people less than have been murdered in the Toronto area - population 4 million and change, double that of Juárez - in the first 7 months of 2011.)
In a city that has come to be defined by its violence, can, or should, the death of a dog fit into the caring continuum?
Whether you care or not about this particular dog, a cop who's annoyed enough by barking and secure enough in his belief that no one can care that a trigger gets pulled to solve the yapping problem in his immediate vicinity, is a worrisome beast. He shoots, the yapping stops, and life can just go on. Problem solved. Now on to regulating human life in the city.
How much more "yapping" does a human have to do before the "same" cop shoots? Who has to be watching for said type of cop to care? And, how many of the 17 killed last night were actually cartel members - or any night - versus how many just dared to bark back at something bigger than them?
(HT Erin Siegal)
Posted by Esteyonage at 22:03
Friday, 22 July 2011
FOTO: Guatemala City, pre-dawn
Guatemala City. The first night, the car in front gets knifepoint-jacked at a stoplight. Bad omen? Gentle reminder?
An expat with 40 years in the country picks me up the next morning. His eyes never leave the mirrors. We shake hands as he stares forward, pupils darting around the reflective glass. He loves Guatemala. Its just how it is, he explains. He has a big smile, and asks normal questions about my life as we drive. There are places you just don't go, things you just don't do, that's all. Letting your guard down tops the second list.
Almost everyone I talk to conveys this in some format, usually without me asking their opinion on the topic. And usually with a roll of the eyes to illustrate how the charms of the city remain under the cloud of (in)security.
Heavily tinted cars. You black out your glass cuz you fear, but no one knows who's behind the glass so they fear, so they black out their glass...
A wiry man in tight jeans who's white hair makes him seem Cuban. I pass him every day. Today, he laughs along with a stout woman selling fried food at a street stall. His eyes dutifully scan the pockets and beltlines of pedestrians. The eyes of a fast pulse, he chews gum erratically. A shotgun is slung across his stocky frame. He guards a parking lot and money changing operation, subtly feeding another feedback loop.
A local journalist tells me over lunch at his friend's house that if you work every day, and you always take the buses to work, you will get robbed once a month. He admits this is not mathematical. But reiterates it as largely true. The room confers. "A lot of people make sure to always have 50 Quetzales ($8-ish) so that they can at least have something to give." So says another friend when I ask more about this. I ride the bus just two times, with people from that barrio who ride it every day, and assure it will be fine. Nothing happens. 29 days to go.
Two women I hardly know bend over backwards to make sure I have enough contacts on my brief stay, and a few friends. Their networks respond with almost equal fervour. I can't keep up, never enough time. My hotel room has brightly dark shades of green for sheets and I disappear into a dreamless coma every time I lie beneath them.
"Quetzal?" In a taxi, leaving the working class neighbourhood that surrounds the dump, the sun is hot, my window is down. I jump at the touch to my elbow; I wasn't watching the mirror. I stare back at the kid, watching his hands. Trying to convince him that I ain't scared, he seems sad. "No." I'm glad I had the option.
Recording a political rally. Its one colonia over from El Limón, one of the worst neighbourhoods in the renowned Zona 18. Everyone is jubilant. The candidate beams smiles, and floats into the crowd. Everyone wants to talk. About a candidate that will help with security. One who promises to deal out tough love to help move the city forward, away from the 20 murders a day. About change. My payment for recording for an hour is a brief dance for a group of chanting supporters. This seems fair. When I make it out of the cloud of laughter, the campaign manager prints me out a picture. We speak in English briefly, trade biz cards, move separate ways into the dark.
Less than five minutes up the road, less than two hours later, two young men are shot eating dinner on their front porch. No one has seen anything. "Oir, ver y callarse." As such, no one talks. The cops at the scene wait for their phones to ring with more info. There are no sounds. At 8:44 pm, doctor tells me he knows of a minimum of 10 gun deaths thus far, all young men. We get a call of three more minutes later. Then a woman gets shot for allegedly not paying her extortion fee. The doctor decides he's tired, and that its time to go home; he's working for free after all.
After 11. Still early, but already late. Long shadows, empty streets. Security vehicles and taxis dominate the roads. The occasional dog. As we idle noisily at a stoplight, a woman opens the door of a Chinese restaurant, looks both ways down the empty silent streets, throws a bucket of water, and closes the door. Madonna's "Like a Virgin" is playing on the raspy speakers. I can't help but laugh, long and loud. The taxista looks at me, and laughs back, drives past a new murder scene, and to the locked front door of the hotel.
Posted by Esteyonage at 04:48
Wednesday, 20 July 2011
View out over Guatemala city through the suspiciously cracked glass in the office of Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz, the first female to operate that onerous position
I am in the Guatemala at the moment, on the typical freelance quest: article by article, photo by photo, recorded sound by recorded sound. Below are a few articles from the past few days looking at some main issues around Guatemala.
Without a doubt, Guatemala City leaves a certain feeling of intensity in the air, and makes you want to keep an eye fixed over your shoulder.
1) First of all, if you never read this David Grann article about Rodrigo Rosenberg's murder/death/suicide, its will be a contender for best of the year. New Yorker, always on point.
2) Closely related, the Guardian's Rory Carrol documents a Guatemalan journalist with his own Rosenberg-esque video already made.
3)Geoffrey Ramsey at InSight covers one of the many cases of corruption in the run-up to Guatemala's elections.
4) An AP investigation by Christopher Sherman about Indian immigrants coming through Guatemala en route to the US/Mexico border. (HT Mexico Reporter)
5) Guatemala begins to see the violence against its journalists (see 2). A look at this by Monica Medel. (HT Erin Siegal)
Posted by Esteyonage at 01:46
Monday, 11 July 2011
As you can tell, I had killer seats: pays to know peeps. Armed with a 35mm lens, my goal was to get one good shot whilst pressed up against the barbed wire fence in the corner of the beer-soaked nosebleeds. Impossible to capture to capture the energy of 105 000 people going fucking psycho, but worth a shot.
Props to a great game played by Mexico's next generation of footballers: great control, creative plays up front, pretty solid D. Mexican soccer fans, as usual, get an enthusiastic A+ for all the zanity that goes on - homophobic though it may be.
The overall onda at Estadio Azteca ayer puts Mexico's chances at Russia 2018 - when this generation has bloomed to join Chicharito and Giovani - as pretty solid.
Posted by Esteyonage at 18:36
Tuesday, 5 July 2011
The postmodern street vendor looks not for sales. He approaches from a cold evening of Mexico City summer rain, crossing the line of rain sliding off the overhang to stand beside our table on the patio. He holds a laminated piece of paper with his photo and a foreign news article behind the clear plastic. He carries the body language of the city's endless vendors; determined bodies contorted between resignation to the task and the desire to make the improbable sales.
The postmodern street vendor opens with an eloquent oration of his past; his place of birth, his parents, why he loves. He does not hear or understand the "no gracias" that me or my table companion offer with sheepish smiles. We want to finish the conversation that was underway; it was not the ideal time for interruption. He moves forward without pause, explaining his rise to an expert in the creation of specialized cheese; "El Quesero," it says on his piece of paper.
A minute passes. We insist again - politely, but repeatedly - that we truly do not want to buy anything. He informs us it is our loss. The postmodern street vendor tips his plastic-bag-covered sombrero, moves on. I feel baffled guilt.
We watch in awe as the speech starts again, three tables down. My phone says 8:31.
Two men in red shirts suck on Marlboros that puff into the cool air in front the standing speaker. The one man facing me wears a puzzled look of concentration. The new potential customers say not a word. The portly figure gestures at both sides of his laminated sheets. The cigarettes burn down. The men stare on. The postmodern vendor pulls out the cheese from the leather bag slung on his shoulder. His large fingers break off a piece, and place it in his mouth. He loudly proclaims it as the most delicious queso in the mundo. He puts it back into his bag, he tips his plastic-coated sombrero to the two men, and offers a regal goodbye, bowing: "les despido, caballeros, que les vaya bien, y que tengan una muy buena noche."
My phone says 8:40.
The postmodern vendor does not leave a business card. It seems implausible he has a schedule. He does not mention a store, a name brand or a type of special cheese. He does not attempt a sale in his 9 minute historia.
In fact, the postmodern vendor does not mention money, and offers no space for it to be offered. He moves to another table where he will again speak of his work, his craft, his achievements and his pride. Another table to which he will not offer goods or services, nor will he request money. But where he will again speak with passion, clarity and eloquence. Where he will speak with no trace of the insanity he is undoubtedly accused of on the regular. And from where he will again walk on to the next unpaying customer, his previous ones still trapped in a mystified silence, staring at the now confusing plates on their tables, smiling to mask their own inability to compute this unfamiliar transaction.
Posted by Esteyonage at 19:54
Saturday, 2 July 2011
(this graphic comes from Good Magazine, http://awesome.good.is/transparency/web/1101/drug-war/flat.html)
Yesterday, US lawmakers made an enormous, important change in its policy on cocaine. Notorious for the hardline stance on drugs, and stiff penalties for even minor possession, Human Rights Watch reported that this retroactive law will actually differentiate between someone with a baggie, and someone with a duffel bag of crack cocaine. Along with the logical incongruities of the previous law, HRW reports it has historically been applied disproportionately to African-Americans.
Some 12 000 American inmates can now apply for reduced sentence.
How this will affect trafficking laws is unclear. Drug law reformers in the US have often argued for similar measures to be enacted in concert with tougher punishments on dealers - and more resources put into investigating the movers, not the users.
As the fantastic image above shows, there are no shortage of movers south of the border fighting to meet the needs of American dealers and their clients. Who takes the heat for this may now be slightly changed.
Posted by Esteyonage at 17:35