September 4, 2014

Compassionate Conservatism: Damon Winter’s New Photos from Gitmo for The NY Times

It’s not just that another distinguished photojournalist has contributed to the body of work on Guantánamo, that relic of 9/11, America’s “terror war” and one of the country’s most auspicious symbols. NY Times photographer Damon Winter’s photos are just as informative as a snapshot of current politics and strategic framing, represented by how the government minders would have it be seen.

Based on the ten photos accompanying the article, the treatment of these “enemy combatants” remains primitive and tortured. You can see this in the photo illustrating the sleeping conditions. More so, the pictures let us know that the barbaric force feedings endure, the smaller diptych near the bottom of the post of the notorious strap chair and trays with the gastric tubes as much a reference to all the photographs of these objects taken before. The new wrinkle and unavoidable emphasis, however, is on how the prisoners — growing longer in the tooth as the terms for holding them grow more litigious — are allowed more contact with each other as long as they demonstrate good behavior. This is not just the thrust of the large main photo (above), but also the second (a prisoner on his way to mingle), the fourth (featuring the prisoner’s “Skype box”) and the fifth (below, gathering at lunchtime).

You could say that the visual sum total is vintage Obama, offering the left abundant gestures toward humanism and the right, strong assurance that the fist remains iron.

(photos: Damon Winter/The New York Times. caption 1: At the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, last month, two detainees in an outdoor recreation area held a conversation while separated by multiple fences. caption 2: Detainees gathered at lunchtime in a common area in Camp 6. Communal detainees have minimal contact with the guards but are under constant surveillance.)

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Michael Shaw
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