Tag Archives: Second Time

Under Mugabe: Robin Hammond Records the Suffering of Zimbabwe

In December 2011 Robin Hammond, then a neighbor of mine in Cape Town, arrived in Zimbabwe for what he’d planned as his longest trip yet to a country, and a story, he knew well – several months documenting that country’s decline. There are worse places in Africa and there are plenty of uplifting stories to be had in Zimbabwe. But in the context of the stunning progress Zimbabwe achieved in its first decade of independence, its collapse over the next two is nonetheless remarkable – and the main reason Robin has covered the country so extensively since 2007. “There are very few countries that have fallen as far as fast as Zimbabwe,” says Robin. “These are educated people with high expectations who are now living in really extreme poverty.”

For months, living on a grant from the Carmignac Foundation, Robin worked his way across the country, getting to know Zimbabweans, living with them, sharing their lives. He discovered a hidden urban poverty that most journalists, myself included, have missed. “Robert Mugabe’s only been screwing it up for 20 years, so there are still some half-decent roads and buildings,” says Robin. “But you get into some of these places and they’re vertical city slums: no power, no water, no jobs. And the atmosphere. I’ve been to Congo and Somalia and all those kinds of places but I don’t think I’ve seen people as scared as the people in Zimbabwe.”

As Robin discovered, there was good reason to fear. In March, as he photographed a farm in the east of the country that had been seized by the regime, he was arrested and held overnight. A few weeks later in mid-April, he was arrested a second time as he tried to take pictures of Zimbabwean refugees crossing the Limpopo River into South Africa. In 2007 I did five days in a Zimbabwean prison in the same part of the country. Robin was held for four weeks. Most of his time was spent in a five-meter-by-10-meter cell with 37 other inmates. The prisoners had a concrete floor to sleep on, blankets infested with lice as their only covering, one toilet between 250 and, for food, slop infested with weevils. Many of his fellow prisoners had been inside for years. Eventually, Robin was deported. “They did a pretty good job of making me feel afraid,” he says.

After arriving in London, then relocating to Paris, Robin began assembling his work. What emerges in these stunning, fearful pictures, now being published in a book and shown at an exhibition which opens this week at Chapelle de l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, is an arrestingly original portrait of a country whose nightmare is far from over. Robin’s pictures lay bare in unprecedented fashion the depth of Zimbabwe’s destruction and how, for millions, there is no recovery, nor even much hope of one.

Yet, with a fresh election expected next year, hope persists. Robin says Zimbabwe has taught him a cruel lesson about that: how hope might keep you going, but how it can also be dangerous. Robin learned that for himself in prison. “When you’re told you’re going to be let out that day, then you have to go back to your cell, that can be really depressing,” he says. “You have to set your mind to the idea that you could be there for months.” For Zimbabweans, hope has proved even more perilous, says Robin. A curiosity of Mugabe’s 32-year rule has been how, even as he plundered his country, ruined it, and killed and beat his challengers, he has never extinguished his people’s belief in change. The Zimbabwean President holds elections, shares power with the opposition and negotiates a theoretical transition with Zimbabwe’s neighbors. None of these initiatives have come to anything. But to those who ponder Mugabe’s survival – about why Zimbabweans haven’t staged a second revolution – Mugabe’s repression provides one answer and his careful nurturing of hope the other. Even now, says Robin, “Zimbabweans are eternally optimistic. They always think the next election will be the one to change their lives.” It is a testament to Robin’s art and courage that the way those expectations have been so mercilessly – and so deeply and comprehensively – disappointed has rarely been better captured.


Alex Perry is TIME’s Africa bureau chief.

Robin Hammond is a photojournalist based in South Africa.

National Geographic Magazine will be publishing a story next year that will feature the work from this project. The series will also be on display from Nov. 9 through Dec. 9 at Chapelle de l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris, with an opening reception on Nov. 8.



Alixandra Fazzina Photographs the Flight of the ‘Flowers of Afghanistan’

In 2008, photojournalist Alixandra Fazzina, who lives in Pakistan, began to stumble across stories of young Afghan refugees, children who were fleeing the country for Europe. Soon after she noticed the phenomenon, she visited a refugee camp in Afghanistan, where she witnessed the funeral of a boy who had died trying to cross from Turkey to Greece. Then, on the same visit, at a hospital, she met a boy who had lost his legs—not as she initially assumed, from a land mine, but as a consequence of having been kidnapped and tortured when trying to go west. “All the time he just kept saying he wanted to get the Europe again, despite the risks. He was just so convinced that there was absolutely no future for him as a young Afghan,” Fazzina says. The last time she saw him was in Greece, where he had again fled, the second time losing the prosthetic legs he had needed after his first attempt at emigration. “He was very lucky to survive that far, and he wasn’t done yet.”

The phenomenon that Fazzina observed first-hand was soon confirmed by statistics. The photographer noted a 64% jump in the number of underage Afghan refugees applying for asylum in Europe in 2010. With money that came that same year with her recognition by UNHCR (the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) as the first journalist to win the prestigious Nansen Refugee Award, along with the support of the Norwegian government, Fazzina began a project to document the hardships faced by young people making that journey from Afghanistan.

That project, Flowers of Afghanistan, is now about one-third completed; Fazzina is planning to continue her work in Iran, Pakistan and Italy in the coming months. “When the U.S. leaves, we’re on the brink of civil war,” she says. “It’s very important to me to be highlighting this at this point in time. It’s very important for people to realize that Afghanistan isn’t a success story.”

Although Fazzina had intended to follow the boys—and the very few girls who make the trip—along the road, photographing them, she has found that the journeys are rarely linear. Before they leave home, the boys hide their travel plans, often even from their parents; smugglers, Fazzina says, warn them that to tell will cast a jinn, a bad spirit, on their travels. And once they leave home, false starts are likely; kidnapping is frequent and deportation is a possibility even for children who seek asylum. Instead, Fazzina says she relies on networks and word of mouth, and perhaps the trust that is more easily won by a woman, to find the refugees at each stop along the way. She says that even smugglers, once they hear about her project, will reach out and provide information about their whereabouts. “Of course I want to see them traveling, but I’m not interested in photographing the smugglers themselves, so a lot of what I’ve been getting has been, in photography terms, very quiet pictures,” she says. Her photos from the series are often dark, capturing a moment of furtive rest or a person who must stay in the shadows, but stillness and gloom does not mean calm. “When I take a step back,” she says, “I often wonder if people really understand how dangerous it was.”

And the more time Fazzina has spent in that shadowy world, the clearer the patterns have become. About half the boys, she says, are fatherless due to war or sickness, thrusting them into positions of responsibility in their families. They are from the least stable provinces in the country. Recently, she met some children in Peshawar who had given up or been deported back to Afghanistan, and noticed another level of pattern. “I started to talk to them about the journey, and it was the same places, the same hotels they were held hostage in,” she says. “It’s very shocking and repetitive.”

Even though Fazzina has rarely been able to literally follow the boys she photographs, she has found that there’s a virtual way to keep track of them: through their own photographs, on Facebook. “I see a boy I’ve met and his pictures of himself in Athens, taken with fast cars and in tourist locations and in borrowed clothes, whereas the reality was he was living in a hotel, like a squat, that was being run by the smuggling mafia, full of prostitutes and drugs. It was a million miles from the pictures he showed,” she says. Unfortunately, that brave face can encourage others to try to make the dangerous journey themselves.

She once tried to make those photos that the boys take of themselves into something more true. One 16-year-old she met was passionate about photography. He was, she says, a “genius” at it. He wanted to be a filmmaker. After he survived for six days in a trucking container and arrived in Rome, Fazzina tried to get a camera to him through her colleagues in Italy. By that time he had left for Paris. They spoke by phone. He said that he had been told that he was too old when he went to a children’s home and that he was too young when he went to a refuge for adults. He was sleeping on the streets, in the winter, in the snow. She still hadn’t gotten a camera to him. He didn’t call again. “He just moved on. He disappeared. I have no idea what happened to him,” she says. “I am fearful what his fate is.”

Alixandra Fazzina is a British photojournalist. She is represented by NOOR Images and is the 2010 recipient of the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award. More information about Flowers of Afghanistan is available here.

Patty Lemke

Los Angeles photographer, Patty Lemke, has a wonderful series about the hot air balloon culture which seems a great way to celebrate the idea of summer.  She is a third generation Angeleno, received her BA from UCLA, and continues  to use lo tech plastic and digital cameras to create singular and surrealistic images taken on the road far away from the beaches of Southern California.
Patty has exhibited across the US and is currently working a a project documenting the ruins of live animals parks, in addition to continuing her work on hot air balloons.
The photographs for this series were made at the Hot Air Balloon Festival in Albuquerque New Mexico on two occasions; first in October of 1994 and then in October of 2010.

I remember waking up at 4 am that first October in 1994 to the sounds of people, thousands as it turned out, gently moving past our van.  There had been no available hotels and my friend David wanted to be sure we did not miss the morning launch so we parked in front of the entrance late the night before.  Outside the van it was cold and dark.

Inside the park, the children were still asleep and the black sky was turning to shade of deep brown and grey.  Flashes started to pop up.  Long patches of tarp took shape; it was Thursday, the day of the odd shape balloons.  Soon multi-story characters were gliding past on their way up before dawn.

These images made with a Holga camera using black and white film show what that day felt like.  Years later, in 2010, I was finally able to return and once again use the Holga and black and white film.  Many of the earlier balloons were not there that second time through a fair number remained.  New, more animated characters replaced the liquor and cigarette balloons. But the dark deep surreal brown remained.

Photographer #365: Ana Casas Broda

Ana Casas Broda, 1965, Spain, has been living in Mexico since she was eight years old. Her long-term projects are intense and personal. Her latest body of work is Kinderwunsch, a complex and personal set of images dealing with maternity. She spent five years submitting herself to fertility treatments before she got her first son. When she entered the same process a second time she decided to capture the entire process, the treatments, the pregnancy, birth, bodily contact, affection, feeding and other aspects of the experience. As the project progressed, it has become more complex. With her sons she carries out actions that derive from the childrens minds or from her fantasies. In 2000 she released the book Album, a photographic project that is built on the relationship between her grandmother and herself. It includes images from her childhood to photographs of the last years of her grandmother. The book deals with themes as memory, cultural and personal inheritance as a way to explore identity. The following images come from the series Kinderwunsch, Diet Journals and Album.

Website: www.anacasasbroda.com

Photographer #365: Ana Casas Broda

Ana Casas Broda, 1965, Spain, has been living in Mexico since she was eight years old. Her long-term projects are intense and personal. Her latest body of work is Kinderwunsch, a complex and personal set of images dealing with maternity. She spent five years submitting herself to fertility treatments before she got her first son. When she entered the same process a second time she decided to capture the entire process, the treatments, the pregnancy, birth, bodily contact, affection, feeding and other aspects of the experience. As the project progressed, it has become more complex. With her sons she carries out actions that derive from the childrens minds or from her fantasies. In 2000 she released the book Album, a photographic project that is built on the relationship between her grandmother and herself. It includes images from her childhood to photographs of the last years of her grandmother. The book deals with themes as memory, cultural and personal inheritance as a way to explore identity. The following images come from the series Kinderwunsch, Diet Journals and Album.

Website: www.anacasasbroda.com

L.A. Women by Joachim Schmid



One of the foundations of Joachim Schmid’s work is the thought that there are way too many photographs in the world already so why not put those that exist to some intelligent use. At least, let us look at them a second time and contemplate their existence, or recontextualize them and introduce further questions of what we look at, what we draw in meaning, and what are the lasting values of the images. His latest book L.A. Women has a darker, real life context which is why I have chosen it as a follow up to Watabe Yukichi’s A Criminal Investigation.

In December 2010, the Los Angeles Police Department released 180 photographs of women found in the home of a known serial murder suspect. The release of the images was a public appeal for help in identifying the women who might be missing and those still alive as the known victims number only a dozen. The photographs do not tell which are which, they provide only a pool of possibility.

Without the context of sensational serial murder attached, the images appear to be innocuous portraits made with poor quality film, digital and video cameras. All are black women but for two whites. Some would look like pictures that people post to Facebook pages or snapped by friends. Many of the women smile, some appear asleep, many sit in the passenger seats of cars. A few of the images reveal small clues that some of the women might be exposing their breasts to the photographer although none of the croppings reveal any nudity.

With the context of being attached to the suspect, we search for grim clues. Many of which appear to have been taken in the back of a van. We notice that the rear windows have been masked with opaque paper or tinfoil. Some might be prostitutes but as Schmid says in his introduction, “We don’t know,” not even if the suspect took the images himself. One is snapped standing outside of the vehicle through the open passenger side window. She smiles as if stopping to chat with a neighbor. Does she know the driver or is the smile an automatic instinctual response to the camera? Is she being enticed into the car? offered a ride? In another, the photographer casts a shadow as he(?) frames a vertical but nothing is revealed that might lead the investigation. We feel the pull of information but are left dangling within the eeriness of the images.

We stare into the faces, some blurred by technical imperfections, and are confused by their calm expressions and smiles. We know the potential of the situation they are frozen within and for a moment we connect on a basic human level for survival – to warn and protect. Or, perhaps like viewing an image of a person before execution, we look to feel fear and master death one image at a time.

L.A. Women is available through Blurb. Joachim Schmid is a part of the ABC (Artists’ Book Cooperative) which is currently the subject of a show at New York’s Printed Matter.

L.A. Women by Joachim Schmid



One of the foundations of Joachim Schmid’s work is the thought that there are way too many photographs in the world already so why not put those that exist to some intelligent use. At least, let us look at them a second time and contemplate their existence, or recontextualize them and introduce further questions of what we look at, what we draw in meaning, and what are the lasting values of the images. His latest book L.A. Women has a darker, real life context which is why I have chosen it as a follow up to Watabe Yukichi’s A Criminal Investigation.

In December 2010, the Los Angeles Police Department released 180 photographs of women found in the home of a known serial murder suspect. The release of the images was a public appeal for help in identifying the women who might be missing and those still alive as the known victims number only a dozen. The photographs do not tell which are which, they provide only a pool of possibility.

Without the context of sensational serial murder attached, the images appear to be innocuous portraits made with poor quality film, digital and video cameras. All are black women but for two whites. Some would look like pictures that people post to Facebook pages or snapped by friends. Many of the women smile, some appear asleep, many sit in the passenger seats of cars. A few of the images reveal small clues that some of the women might be exposing their breasts to the photographer although none of the croppings reveal any nudity.

With the context of being attached to the suspect, we search for grim clues. Many of which appear to have been taken in the back of a van. We notice that the rear windows have been masked with opaque paper or tinfoil. Some might be prostitutes but as Schmid says in his introduction, “We don’t know,” not even if the suspect took the images himself. One is snapped standing outside of the vehicle through the open passenger side window. She smiles as if stopping to chat with a neighbor. Does she know the driver or is the smile an automatic instinctual response to the camera? Is she being enticed into the car? offered a ride? In another, the photographer casts a shadow as he(?) frames a vertical but nothing is revealed that might lead the investigation. We feel the pull of information but are left dangling within the eeriness of the images.

We stare into the faces, some blurred by technical imperfections, and are confused by their calm expressions and smiles. We know the potential of the situation they are frozen within and for a moment we connect on a basic human level for survival – to warn and protect. Or, perhaps like viewing an image of a person before execution, we look to feel fear and master death one image at a time.

L.A. Women is available through Blurb. Joachim Schmid is a part of the ABC (Artists’ Book Cooperative) which is currently the subject of a show at New York’s Printed Matter.