Canadian photojournalist Donald Weber first went to the Ukraine, on assignment, during the Orange Revolution of 2004. Following that first trip, he soon returned, and spent the next six years in Russia and Ukraine trying to photograph contemporary life, and its hardships, as well as the vestiges of a still-powerful, hidden system. The title of his latest book, Interrogations, is very appropriate: both because they are the book’s subject, but also because this book raises a number of difficult questions which it deliberately refuses to answer. Set in Russia and the Ukraine, the book is made up of a series of portraits of people being questioned in different interrogation rooms, each as sparse as the next. By choosing not to include any captions and very little information about the context of these interrogations, Weber has put together a book which is an unflinching and discomfiting encounter with a particularly brutal and raw manifestation of power.
Taken in a handful of dingy, sparse interrogation rooms, they show different people undergoing a psychologically and sometimes physically violent interrogation process. We are not told who these people are are, what they are accused of, or why they are being interrogated.
“The unseen subject of these photographs is Power. They show us the human limits to the understanding of Power. There are many things we don’t know about Power. We don’t know if Power is the same everywhere, if its manifestation in one place and time is meaningful, measurable, subject to the same laws as another.”
– Donald Weber, Confessions of an Invisible Man, Interrogations, pg. 158
The strength of Interrogations is that it teeters on an ethical dilemma: should Weber have been present? In attendance, was Weber complicit? Are his photographs further abuse and violation? The answers to these questions are ones that Weber is happy to take on and he has done so in public forums on Prison Photography and also at DVAFOTO.
Interrogations has been awarded a World Press Photo Award in the Portraits Category. Their selection is here.
An essay and slide show from Time Magazine is available here.
All images ©Donald Weber
Posted by Aoife Giles