Photo of the Week 30 April 2013
Congratulations to Stephan Mazurek from Fairmont, West Virginia for his haunting image of four youth from a prison in Central Mogadishu, Somalia.
Photographer: Stephan Mazurek
Hometown: Fairmont, West Virgina
Gear Used: Canon 5D Mark II and a Canon EF16-35mm, 2.8 lens
We were able to speak with Stephan about what it was like to travel to Somalia, a war torn country plagued by famine, political unrest, and displacement of its people. Find out how he received permission to photograph these individuals and what inspires him as photographer.
What was it like traveling and photographing in Somalia? Is the image part of a larger collection or project on individuals in Somalia?
Somalia is truly the end of the world. I was working on a documentary that was following two Turkish doctors who were volunteering their time in Mogadishu for a few weeks. I knew Somalia was going to be edgy, frightening, and an eye opener. The director refused to go and all of the details didn’t fall into place until the last minute. When we were at the International airport in Mogadishu coming into the country it took close to three hours to make our way through customs with the doctor’s supplies and the various monies and papers that needed to exchange hands. I needed to go to the bathroom and I was taken to a room that literally had a padlock on the door. It was the only bathroom in the airport. When the door was unlocked and I entered I was truly terrified and I suddenly realized that maybe I underestimated the experience I was going to have in Somalia. The bathroom looked as if literally several people had been murdered in there and no one had bothered to clean up the crime scene. I will return to Somalia later this year to continue a project of photographing families and children in the migration camps and the process of immigrating to another country.
What type of camera, gear, and equipment did you use to capture the shot? What inspired you to turn the image into a black-and-white print as opposed to color?
I shot this image with a Canon 5D Mark II and a Canon EF16-35mm, 2.8 lens. I turned the image to Black and White via Silver Efex Pro 2 because the tones were already so muted and the whites mixed with lovely grays, and the blacks so rich I couldn’t resist.
On your portfolio website the image is listed as a part of a collection of photographs of “Somalian Prison Men.” How did you receive permission to photograph these individuals? Is there a particular message or story that you wanted to convey with this shot?
I wrote an essay on the experience that gives you a good idea of what was going on at the time.
Here’s an excerpt from Stephan’s essay about this particular photograph:
“We arrive at the canteen. I see four young cooks, and they see me. They bore through me. I don’t flinch. I look right at them. Transference is happening amongst the five of us. I put the camera to my eye and click. I’m not ashamed of capturing the moment, and when I lower my camera they haven’t moved a muscle. I can’t stop looking at them. My heart races. My mind floods with narrative fragments I can’t string together. They are just boys. My teenage son could be standing next to them. I am dumbstruck. The general calls my name, and my encounter with the young men ends. I follow the general down a corridor to another part of the prison. But my heart and mind are still in the canteen. Who are these young men, and why are they here?
“I eventually meet up with the rest of the team. The doctors see and diagnose and medicate a hundred or so prisoners. The day goes as planned. I videotape the encounter so our producers back home in the States will have the elements to tell a story that will be part of a larger story in a framework that will somehow make a difference in our understanding, or lack of understanding, of a world we really know nothing about. As I wrap up, the general gives me permission to use images of all the prisoners. I ask him how he can do that. He says, “These men will never leave. They are all part of Al-Shabaab. This is where they belong. In here. Not out there. It’s better this way. ”
You can find the rest of Stephan’s essay “A Prison That Is Not My Own” here: http://www.hombremitkamera.com/essays/a-prison-that-is-not-my-own/
What kind of photography do you enjoy shooting most both for professional and personal photography projects?
Documentary, Editorial, Portrait and Street.
Who are some of your favorite photographers and artists that you draw inspiration from?
Sebastião Salgado, Tim Hetherington, Minor White and Richard Avedon.
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