≡ The problem with expectations in the context of documentary photography (Part II) ≡

qiermpo7kpxgttqwphvm© Giovanni Troilo, J. keeps his gun hidden in a box in the woods of Bois du Cazier. This is more secure than keeping them at home since he regularly gets visits from the police., from the series The Dark Heart of Europe, 2014.

fpudamunvpv5hxejln5y© Giovanni Troilo, Gas supply tubes run along the houses built near the steel factories of Charleroi. Before the electric upgrade of the blast furnace, these tubes used to provide the energy needed for this operation., from the series The Dark Heart of Europe, 2014.

It’s the discussion everyone is having in the photography community since the 2015 World Press Photo awards were announced: Giovanni Troilo won the contemporary issues category with a visual essay about the town of Charleroi, in Belgium, entitled “The Dark Heart of Europe“. In the official site, one can read the following description “Charleroi, a town near Brussels, has experienced the collapse of industrial manufacturing, rising unemployment, increasing immigration and outbreak of micro-criminality. The roads, once fresh and neat, appear today desolated and abandoned, industries are closing down, and vegetation grows in the old industrial districts.”

So far so good, but the controversy started once claims arose about the performative nature of the photographs. Apparently, italian photographer Giovanni Troilo staged some of the photos in order to better convey a feeling of decadence of Europe. Having seen the photos, Charleroi’s mayor Paul Magnette sent a letter to  World Press Photo claiming that the award be removed on grounds of the essay not constituting a documentary portrait of Charleroi. Excerpts of such letter are all over the web. At one point Magnette writes:

“He [Giovanni] claims to be doing investigative journalism; a photo essay reflecting a simple reality. But this is far from being the case: the falsified and misleading captions, the travesty of reality, the construction of striking images staged by the photographer are all profoundly dishonest and fail to respect the codes of journalistic ethics. In our opinion, this work does not comply with the objective of the competition.”

cn5i37clib1qzwvnchpk© Giovanni Troilo, Locals know of parking lots popular for couples seeking sexual liaisons, from the series The Dark Heart of Europe, 2014.

This particular image above is accompanied by a caption saying “Locals know of parking lots popular for couples seeking sexual liaisons”, however the author explains that the photograph was staged with a friend’s car and his cousin inside. His approach is not only questionable because of its theatricality, but mainly because it is dishonest: the captions do not correspond to the reality of the singular and individual daily life in Charleroi, instead they are used in order to apply to a virtual (and apparently universal) idea of what the darkness in Europe looks like.

ygasyk3sx6ajpvklf7rv© Giovanni Troilo, Locals know of parking lots popular for couples seeking sexual liaisons, from the series The Dark Heart of Europe, 2014.

This image shows  Philippe Genion as an obese and decadent man. The caption reads: “Philippe lives in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the town.” Not that we needed to read mayor Magnette’s response to understand the inauthenticity of such an image, for it is obviously overstaged and sensationalist, but he adds to the confusion by saying:

“Mr. G. is a prominent figure, earthy and very attached to his region. Far from the image given him by photographer who seems to have wanted to build his image by referring to the ‘neurotic obesity’ mentioned in the introductory text of Giovanni Troilo.”

Journalist Caroline Lallemand (for Le Vif) interviewed belgian photographer Thomas Van Den Driessche about the controversy and at one point he says (my translation):

“Let’s take the example of corpulent man posing in his interior space. The dramatic lighting of the scene and the caption of the photo suggest that this person is a recluse inside his own home to escape violence in his neighborhood. This is actually Philippe Genion, a well-known personality in Charleroi who loves posing topless. He lives in a popular neighborhood, but relatively peaceful. His house is also a wine bar. So we are far from the image referring to the “neurotic obesity” conveyed by the photographer. Philippe Genion has also given several specific details about Troilo’s team mise-en-scène on its Facebook page. He specified that the photographer had clearly told him that he “was not doing a documentary, but a photography project”. For me, it’s another serious deontological mistake to have presented his work in such a way.”

The issue is far from over. Troilo is yet to respond to mayor Magnette’s letter and the World Press Photo jury is expected to explain their position regarding the story at hands. But what is really expected? That photography be a document of reality when we know it to be always subjective? That near-documentary photographs be discredited by their theatricality even though they often present a better visual understanding of a particular social reality? That manipulation be 100% excluded from photojournalist practice, even if the barriers between documentary and photojournalism keep being blurred? Or may it be that our problem concerns not the photographer, not the images, but the man who comes forth as an author? May it be that the core of the problem deals with the overall authority of a man’s words and his authenticity?

evtm9oyflksjfrgnbyje© Giovanni Troilo, The newest and tallest building in Charleroi is the 75-meter-high police station., from the series The Dark Heart of Europe, 2014.

kg75csiwtze5hdgyo25h© Giovanni Troilo, Vadim, a painter who uses live models, creates a work inspired by an existing painting., from the series The Dark Heart of Europe, 2014.

┐ Can a symbolic image become a code? └

pmThis image is from yesterday’s official communication by the Portuguese PM about new austerity measures. It shows a reporter wearing an Iron Maiden t-shirt. I know it is symbolic but I like to imagine it could be a code, a message given to rise a sort of underground army. Yes, I know, sci-fi, maybe I’ve seen “The Fight Club” too many times, but we need to believe we can take this government down, or else we’ll go mental. In the climax of our national anthem it reads “às armas”, aux armes!!! It doesn’t get more symbolic than this.
The video starts at the moment when the editor chooses to change angle to show the reporter. Thank you both!

┐ Democracy Deficit └

© Sofia Silva, Democracy Deficit (wip detail), from the series The Protester, 2012

from left top right it reads “Bread”, “Peace”, “Housing”, “Health”, “Education”

┐ we’re all in deep shit VI └

as published in the front cover of the Portuguese newspaper I.

video of the happening here: “Celebrations to mark Portugal’s Republic Day took on an extra symbolic relevance when President Cavaco Silva unknowingly raised the country’s flag upside down. The internationally recognised signal of distress came on the last time October 5 will be deemed a public holiday having been abolished in an austerity measure.”

┐ Direct Action └

© Javier Barbancho

LEADERS of a workers’ union in southern Spain staged a massive raid on two supermarkets on Tuesday, filling at least 30 trolleys with staple foodstuffs to give to the poor.


They gave their entire haul to local ‘food banks’ which supply hampers to families who no longer have any income to be able to feed themselves.


The Sindicato Andaluz de Trabajadores (SAT), or workers’ union of the Andalucía region, staged an uninvited supermarket sweep on Mercadona in Écija (Sevilla) and Carrefour in Arcos de la Frontera (Cádiz).


Their misplaced Robin Hood impression annoyed management at Mercadona, a national firm which is very well known for, and has received great praise for its social responsibility programmes.


All staff are on a minimum net wage of 1,200 euros a month for full-time hours, never work Sundays or bank holidays – except where at least four non-working days are strung together – and some have crèches for children of employees.


Last year alone, the chain created 6,500 new jobs, and it actively seeks to take on employees with mental or physical disabilities, who would otherwise struggle to fend for themselves.


“We resent the fact that we were forced in this way to give to charity, when our own charitable operations close to home are already extremely active and well-developed,” said a representative of Mercadona.


Mayor of Marinaleda (Sevilla), Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo, is thought to have been involved in the Mercadona raid.


The regional minister for the interior has given the green light for all parties involved who are found to be arrested and tried.

┐ Slavoj Zizek: all we are saying is give Greece a chance└

You come home in the evening, tired, you put on tv some stupid show like Cheers or Friends and you just sit and the tv even laughs for you. And, unfortunately, it works

That’s how those in power, the European establishment, want to see – not only Greek people but all of us – just staring at the screen and observe how the others are doing the dreaming, crying and laughing.

┐ Blockupy – Frankfurt └

Transnational call to action in Frankfurt, May 16-19 * International solidarity in our common struggle *

We are calling for massive protests in Frankfurt this May against the crisis regime of the European Union. We are activists representing a multitude of movements and struggles from different European countries and elsewhere, who have risen up in the past months and years to protest the assaults on our freedoms, jobs and livelihoods that have become fiercely intensified in the global crisis. We have joined together and shared our struggles and experiences, and we have realized that in a multitude of local forms, we are fighting the same fight. Like never before, our movements are starting to strengthen each other: a truly transnational opposition is beginning to emerge.

Directly following the global action days on 12M and 15M, where we will protest in our own cities and regions, our transnational struggles will join together in Frankfurt, the European hub of global capitalism and the place of origin of the distress and misery that dictatorship of the markets has caused for millions of people.

We are protesting the widespread impoverishment and denial of democratic rights occurring in the Eurozone as part of a global systemic crisis.
In the periphery of the EU we are experiencing the extreme effects of politics pushed for by the governments of Germany and France and enacted by institutions representative of global capitalism: the ECB, IMF, EU, and their imposed technocratic governments. Millions of us have been impoverished and driven to misery by austerity and structural adjustment programs, the denial of labor rights and the slashing and privatization of public services, such as education, healthcare and welfare. We are experiencing the looting of human and natural resources by supposedly democratic institutions!
Yet these processes are only the most evident sign of the precarization of working and living conditions experienced in all of Europe and beyond. Our social uprisings, traversing the internal borders of the EU, are the expression of indignation acting outside every form of political representation. As representative democracy fails, we leave it behind, creating our own democratic practices in everyday struggles against exploitation.
We are experiencing global migration as another clear sign of the refusal of this transnational system of exploitation, its border regimes and violent wars. It is devastating our earth and basic livelihood. The situation is urgent: we are facing a human-made climate disaster!

Yet in Europe and beyond, we are also experiencing the emergence of political movements that are challenging the everyday exploitation of people and the earth, the social fragmentation, precarization and racism that pretend to divide and then weaken us. By creating connections among these movements and making ourselves visible and powerful, we are attempting to practice a real democracy right now. In Frankfurt, we have the opportunity to make these connections real, and to empower local struggles on a transnational level. We will blockade a crucial center of global capitalism, learning from what we watched in Oakland and the Occupy movement in the United States, who in turn learned from the revolutions across North Africa, the Middle East and the Indignados of Southern Europe. Let us bring our movements together in solidarity to continue the fight! Let us not miss this opportunity to set the agenda to reinvent our common future!

On May 17 we will occupy parks and main squares in the city center with our tents to create spaces for discussion and exchange. On May 18 we will advance from different points toward the financial district: our vision is a full blockade of the ECB and all the other important financial institutions in Frankfurt to stop their running business. On May 19 we will show our magnitude in a mass demonstration and make it known that we will not allow our societies to be destroyed by financial institutions

║ Bert Teunissen – Domestic Landscapes ║

© Bert Teunissen, Felgueiras de Algarbom #1, Portugal, 2002
© Bert Teunissen, Minas de São Domingos #2, Portugal, 2001


There’s really no way to resume this work… so here is the link to it.