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We Tell Stories


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We Tell Stories


Instagram: instituteartist

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A History of Misogyny, chapter one: On Abortion


© Laia Abril

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A History of Misogyny, chapter one: On Abortion


© Laia Abril

Under “natural” circumstances, the average woman would get pregnant about 15 times in her life, resulting in ten births. Seven of those babies would survive childhood.

For centuries, people have searched for ways to delay or terminate pregnancy. Today, safe and efficient means of abortion finally exist, yet women around the world continue to use ancient, illegal or risky home methods: Every year, 47,000 women around the world die due to botched abortions.

Why do they take the risk?

Across countries and religions, millions of women are blocked from abortion technologies by law and social coercion, and are forced to carry pregnancies to term against their will. Some are minors and rape victims. For many, the pregnancy is not viable or poses a health risk. But all can be criminalized for trying to abort; in El Salvador, even women suffering a miscarriage are being charged with homicide, facing prison sentences of up to 40 years.”

In violation of patient confidentiality codes, doctors and healthcare providers have been known report women seeking illegal abortions, even when abortion is medically necessary to save the patient’s life. On the other hand, anyone who helps a woman abort in a country where abortion is illegal can find themselves incarcerated. And even in countries where abortion is legal, medical staff may risk their lives to perform the operation.

This year, for the first time in history, the Pope has allowed Catholic women who’ve aborted to be forgiven. But while this may seem like a step forward, it perpetuates the stigma of guilt that surrounds women’s choices. In the meantime, politicians exploit abortion as campaign currency; making reproductive issues a political matter, rather than a question of rights.

Laia Abril’s new long-term project A History of Misogyny is a visual research undertaken through historical and contemporary comparisons. In her first chapter On Abortion Abril documents and conceptualizes the dangers and damages caused by women’s lack of legal, safe and free access to abortion. Continuing with her painstaking research methodology, Abril draws on the past to highlight the long, continuous erosion of women’s reproductive rights to present-day. Her collection of visual, audio and textual evidence weaves a net of questions about ethics and morality, and reveals a staggering series of social triggers, stigmas, and taboos around abortion that have been invisible until now.

ON ABORTION & CONTRACEPTION HISTORY

On Illegal Stories: Poland

On June 27, 2015, the Women on Waves (WoW) Abortion drone made its maiden flight from Frankfurt an der Oder in Germany, to Słubice in Poland, carrying packages of abortion pills.

Abortion is legal in nearly all EU countries, except Poland, Ireland and Malta. The official number of abortions performed in Poland, a country with 38 million inhabitants, is only about 750 per year. According to Dutch pro-choice organization Women on Waves, the real number is closer to 240,000.

My doctor and I pretended we didn’t know each other, so other hospital staff wouldn’t get suspicious. The plan was to state that the fetus was dead, which would get me the curettage legally. My doctor winked when I was supposed to say “yes” or “no” to the procedure. It was absurd and humiliating at the same time.
— Magdalena, 32, Poland
All in all, the experience took almost 15 hours without incident. I called my (now ex-) boyfriend from the road, and he begged me to not do it. When I mentioned the stuffiness and throng, he answered me: “That seems right, murderers should be treated like cattle
— Marta, 29, Poland

Baby hatch, baby box, ruota dei trovatelli (foundling wheel) or okno zycia. These little windows can be opened from outside for mothers to deposit unwanted infants. After this, an alarm sounds to alert the nuns at the convent to take in the orphan. This system has existed in one form or another for centuries all over the world.

The United Nations is concerned at the baby box’s recent spread in Europe; in 2012, nearly 200 baby drop-off points were installed across the continent. More than 400 children have been left in European child abandonment centers since 2000.

ON ILLEGAL STORIES: Chile, Peru, Ireland

It happened when I was 24. I had been sexually assaulted, and I found out I was pregnant after just four or five weeks. At that time, abortion in Chile was illegal under any circumstance [even when the mother’s life was in risk]. Getting it done was a hell of a process; I was afraid the so-called doctors who did it would botch the job or kill me and cut me into pieces. But in the end, everything went well and I threw a party to celebrate with the people who helped me
— Lucía, Chile
In 2010, my wife Michelle and I found out we were pregnant. She was over the moon, although I was worried and realistic — she had been fighting cancer since 2001 and was terminal. Unfortunately, her chemotherapy treatment had probably damaged the fetus, before we even knew there was one. Michelle was also unlikely to survive a pregnancy. Her oncologist prescribed an abortion. Michelle did not want to, but we had no other option. To our surprise, Cork University Hospital refused to do it
— Neil, Ireland
Taking an scalding bath seems to be a widespread method that has persisted for generations. One Sanskrit text from the 8th century recommends squatting over a boiling pot of onions, a technique also used by Jewish women in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the early 1900s. As late as 1870, some abortionists would pull out patients’ teeth without aesthetic because the pain and shock was thought to induce miscarriage.

Taking an scalding bath seems to be a widespread method that has persisted for generations. One Sanskrit text from the 8th century recommends squatting over a boiling pot of onions, a technique also used by Jewish women in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the early 1900s.

As late as 1870, some abortionists would pull out patients’ teeth without aesthetic because the pain and shock was thought to induce miscarriage.

Desperate pregnant woman have been known to probe themselves with knitting needles, whalebone, turkey feathers, umbrella rods or the infamous coat hanger. These can cause infection, hemorrhage, sterility and death. Abortion rights advocates worldwide have long used the coat hanger as a symbol of the pro-choice movement, and this method is now seeing a resurgence in the United States, where abortion restrictions are increasingly narrow.

Desperate pregnant woman have been known to probe themselves with knitting needles, whalebone, turkey feathers, umbrella rods or the infamous coat hanger. These can cause infection, hemorrhage, sterility and death. Abortion rights advocates worldwide have long used the coat hanger as a symbol of the pro-choice movement, and this method is now seeing a resurgence in the United States, where abortion restrictions are increasingly narrow.

The infusion of these plants: Ruda and Chipilin are used by women to abort during the first trimester in El Salvador. There has been an endless list of oral drugs thought to abort a fetus, since before the time of Hippocrates. A few examples: Clover mixed with white wine, squirting cucumber, stinking iris, slippery elm, brewer’s yeast, melon, wild carrot, aloe, papaya, crushed ants, camel hair, lead, belladonna, quinine and pomegranate. Alternatively, self-starvation.

The infusion of these plants: Ruda and Chipilin are used by women to abort during the first trimester in El Salvador.

There has been an endless list of oral drugs thought to abort a fetus, since before the time of Hippocrates. A few examples: Clover mixed with white wine, squirting cucumber, stinking iris, slippery elm, brewer’s yeast, melon, wild carrot, aloe, papaya, crushed ants, camel hair, lead, belladonna, quinine and pomegranate.

Alternatively, self-starvation.

Was one of the other hundred “tricks” women invented to jeopardize her pregnancy when they did not    have easy access to abortion. Interesting enough is how, in one of the most common ways of abortion in Middle Ages — neonaticide; when women used to leave the newborns outside the house or thought them to the river. Unlike other European regions, the German mother had the right to expose them. 

Was one of the other hundred “tricks” women invented to jeopardize her pregnancy when they did not    have easy access to abortion. Interesting enough is how, in one of the most common ways of abortion in Middle Ages — neonaticide; when women used to leave the newborns outside the house or thought them to the river. Unlike other European regions, the German mother had the right to expose them. 

Advertising materials for clinics that “regulate” and “fix” menstrual delays in Peru.

Abortion in Peru is illegal, except in case of a threat to the life or health of the mother. However, since 2014, 277 women have died after being denied access to abortion. Women who self-abort can be sentenced to up to two years in prison. Anyone who performs an illegal abortion can be sentenced to one to six years.

Human incubator In November 27, 2014, an Irish woman in her 20s was admitted to hospital with headaches and nausea. Two days later, the mother of two suffered a fall and was later found unresponsive. On December 9th, she was declared clinically brain dead. She was 15 weeks pregnant at the time, and was placed on life support against her family’s wishes. In December 26, the Irish High Court ruled that the life support machine could be turned off after hearing that her fetus had little chance of surviving. Under the 1983 8th amendment of the Irish constitution, an unborn child has the same rights as its mother.

Human incubator

In November 27, 2014, an Irish woman in her 20s was admitted to hospital with headaches and nausea. Two days later, the mother of two suffered a fall and was later found unresponsive. On December 9th, she was declared clinically brain dead. She was 15 weeks pregnant at the time, and was placed on life support against her family’s wishes.

In December 26, the Irish High Court ruled that the life support machine could be turned off after hearing that her fetus had little chance of surviving. Under the 1983 8th amendment of the Irish constitution, an unborn child has the same rights as its mother.

Hippocratic betrayal On February 2015, a 19-year-old pregnant woman ingested abortive pills in São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil. She started feeling abdominal pains, so her aunt took her to hospital. After she was treated, her doctor called the police, saying he would autopsy the fetus if she did not confess to trying to abort. She was handcuffed to her hospital bed, and freed only after paying a 250€ bail. Denunciation by doctors is not uncommon in Brazil, Peru or El Salvador. They can be retained in hospitals for weeks or months. Many claim they are legally required to notify authorities when they suspect an abortion, in contradiction to professional codes of doctor-patient confidentiality.

Hippocratic betrayal

On February 2015, a 19-year-old pregnant woman ingested abortive pills in São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil. She started feeling abdominal pains, so her aunt took her to hospital. After she was treated, her doctor called the police, saying he would autopsy the fetus if she did not confess to trying to abort. She was handcuffed to her hospital bed, and freed only after paying a 250€ bail.

Denunciation by doctors is not uncommon in Brazil, Peru or El Salvador. They can be retained in hospitals for weeks or months. Many claim they are legally required to notify authorities when they suspect an abortion, in contradiction to professional codes of doctor-patient confidentiality.

Visual War Anti-abortion protesters [often including their children] have a long history of harassing women who try to access to abortion clinics. Their banners go from naïf child imaginary to dantesque, bizarre, graphic images of fetus and death children [often altering and manipulating origin and data of the pictures]. In countries as US, UK, Australia, Canada or South Africa governments draw a perimeter around the facilities, known variously as a “buffer zone”, “bubble zone”, or “access zone” intending to limit those who oppose abortion can approach. Pixelated images from pro-life sites where they compare the hand of a dead fetus mired in blood, to the tip of a pencil and the fetus body to a coin.

Visual War

Anti-abortion protesters [often including their children] have a long history of harassing women who try to access to abortion clinics. Their banners go from naïf child imaginary to dantesque, bizarre, graphic images of fetus and death children [often altering and manipulating origin and data of the pictures]. In countries as US, UK, Australia, Canada or South Africa governments draw a perimeter around the facilities, known variously as a “buffer zone”, “bubble zone”, or “access zone” intending to limit those who oppose abortion can approach.

Pixelated images from pro-life sites where they compare the hand of a dead fetus mired in blood, to the tip of a pencil and the fetus body to a coin.

The abortion saint Saint Gianna Beretta Molla (October 4, 1922 – April 28, 1962) was an Italian pediatrician who refused both an abortion and a hysterectomy when she was pregnant with her fourth child, despite knowing that continuing with the pregnancy would result in her own death. She was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2004 and is a patron saint for mothers, physicians, and unborn children. Abortion is legal in Italy up to 90 days of pregnancy, but in some hospitals, 100% of doctors are conscientious objectors, forcing women to travel abroad for a termination

The abortion saint

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla (October 4, 1922 – April 28, 1962) was an Italian pediatrician who refused both an abortion and a hysterectomy when she was pregnant with her fourth child, despite knowing that continuing with the pregnancy would result in her own death. She was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2004 and is a patron saint for mothers, physicians, and unborn children.

Abortion is legal in Italy up to 90 days of pregnancy, but in some hospitals, 100% of doctors are conscientious objectors, forcing women to travel abroad for a termination

“Pro-life” terrorism In 1993, American anti-abortion extremists like The Lambs of Christ and The Army of God began murdering doctors who provided abortions. The latest attack claimed a police officer and two civilians at a family-planning clinic in Colorado, last year. There have been at least 11 murders and 26 attempted murders due to anti-abortion violence in the US. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s “Ten Most Wanted” poster of anti-abortion extremist James Kopp. Convicted of killing Dr. Barnett Slepian at home in Amherst, New York, in October, 1998, Kopp received the maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison. 

“Pro-life” terrorism

In 1993, American anti-abortion extremists like The Lambs of Christ and The Army of God began murdering doctors who provided abortions. The latest attack claimed a police officer and two civilians at a family-planning clinic in Colorado, last year. There have been at least 11 murders and 26 attempted murders due to anti-abortion violence in the US.

Federal Bureau of Investigation’s “Ten Most Wanted” poster of anti-abortion extremist James Kopp. Convicted of killing Dr. Barnett Slepian at home in Amherst, New York, in October, 1998, Kopp received the maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison. 

Jesus crying over aborted baby The Eastern Orthodox Church believes that life begins at conception, and abortion equals murder. If a woman whose life is at risk terminates her pregnancy, she won’t be excommunicated for the sin, but must confess to a priest and fulfill a penance. On the other hand, in Islam, a fetus is believed to become a living soul after 4 months of gestation, so abortion after then is impermissible. When a mother’s life is at risk, religious texts prioritize saving the “original source of life” instead of the “potential life”. 

Jesus crying over aborted baby

The Eastern Orthodox Church believes that life begins at conception, and abortion equals murder. If a woman whose life is at risk terminates her pregnancy, she won’t be excommunicated for the sin, but must confess to a priest and fulfill a penance. On the other hand, in Islam, a fetus is believed to become a living soul after 4 months of gestation, so abortion after then is impermissible. When a mother’s life is at risk, religious texts prioritize saving the “original source of life” instead of the “potential life”. 

Zika Aedes aegypti mosquitoes transmit the feared Zika virus to pregnant women, who can pass it to their unborn children. Recent Zika outbreaks in Brazil have been linked to microcephaly in babies. In early 2016, the Brazilian government recorded 3,893 new cases of the fetal anomaly. The World Health Organization has urged increased access to abortion for pregnant women infected with Zika in Latin America, but the procedure remains limited in Brazil, Panama, Venezuela, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Haiti, Paraguay and El Salvador.

Zika

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes transmit the feared Zika virus to pregnant women, who can pass it to their unborn children. Recent Zika outbreaks in Brazil have been linked to microcephaly in babies. In early 2016, the Brazilian government recorded 3,893 new cases of the fetal anomaly.

The World Health Organization has urged increased access to abortion for pregnant women infected with Zika in Latin America, but the procedure remains limited in Brazil, Panama, Venezuela, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Haiti, Paraguay and El Salvador.

Abortion confession: 365 days of forgiveness

On November 8, 2015, the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy began. It is a one year holy period, in which Pope Francis has allowed every priest in the world be forgive the sin of abortion. St. John Paul II taught in Evangelium Vitae (paragraph 58) that abortion is “murder” and aborting women should be excommunicated.

Audio installation: Hidden audio recording of a fake confession of a real abortion and its indulgence.

Bologna, February, 2016 – Jubilee Year.

click to view the full series of images (Law, God & Violence) in the archive

 

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Transmongolian. The Secret History of the Mongols


© Alvaro Laiz

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Transmongolian. The Secret History of the Mongols


© Alvaro Laiz

The Secret History of the Mongols, considered to be the oldest Mongolian language literary work, is the single significant native account of Mongolia’s rise to power around the 12th century AD. Providing a clear narration of the vicissitudes that brought a disperse land of nomads to become the greatest domination in Asia, the work paints a clear portrait of the journey taken by a young Temuiin before transforming into, the great ruler of Asia, Genghis Khan.

Blended with fictional and historical accounts, the epic poetry and narrative, recounts how the warrior was able to organize more than thirty tribes battling for control, and how once in power, with the objective to augment his population and face the Chinese army commanded by Song dynasty, declared homosexuality illegal under death penalty. It is curious to recall that transsexuality has a certain root inside the Mongol tradition. The Shaman had a special status inside the nomad population. They would connect the spiritual world to the human world.

Today, more than eight hundred years later, Mongolia is a sovereign country with the lowest population rate in the world, lower than two inhabitants per square kilometer and being a homosexual, continues to be taboo. The weight of tradition and the years under Soviet control, a time in which homosexuals were sent to gulag, surmise a ballast for gays, lesbians, and transsexuals, who continue to be repressed, rejected, and victimized. Condemned to a life of secrecy, many of them find themselves turning to prostitution, others lead a life of solitude. The younger wrestle to flee the Mongolian borders, to countries such as the Philippines or Japan, where their condition is much more tolerable and dreams of a sex change are attainable, but above all, to an identity which in their native land, has been denied way too long.

The situation of the homosexual group has been gathered in several reports made by International Amnesty and Human Rights Watch and emphasize that “ in spite of that the homosexual conduct is not specifically gathered as crime, International Amnesty and the Association of Gays and Lesbians criticize the part of the Penal Code in which one makes reference to the obtaining of sexual pleasure as an immoral practices, arguing that can be used against persons who show a homo- sexual conduct as well as a vigilance continued by the police “.

The Human Rights’s annual report on Mongolia affirms that “there have been denunciations by people who have been public attacked, that has refused them to entry in shops and in night bars and who have been discriminated due to his sexual condition in his working place, as well as denunciations made by people retained in centres of detention based only and exclusively in his sexual condition”.

Gays, lesbians and transsexuals are socially suppressed, rejected and underprivileged people. Forced to look for help between those of the same condition, some of them become male prostitutes o prostitutes, others get a life of loneliness and concealment. The youngest fight to go out out from Mongolia, to countries as The Philippines or Japan, where theirs condition are much more easier and in even they might compete for a change of sex. And the most important, a social re- cognition impossible to achieve in theirs own country.

click to view the complete set of images in the archive 

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Refugees passage to the Olympics


©  Riverboom

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Refugees passage to the Olympics


©  Riverboom

Two years and a half ago they arrived in Rio de Janeiro from the Democratic Republic of Congo, to compete in the Judo World Championship and they never left.

Today Yolande Mabika and Popole Misenga, refugee athletes, thanks to a former Olympic trainer and a Brazilian judo superstar, they’re hoping to realize their Olympic dream, walking on August 5th in the Maracana stadium behind the Olympic flag.

For the first time in the Olympic history, the International Olympic Committee has decided to create a team of refugee athletes that will compete in Rio under the Olympic flag.

The two Congolese athletes are training in one of Rio’s most dangerous favela, Cidade de Deus, with Gerardo Bernardes, a four-time Olympic trainer, and coach of two of the most famous Brazilian judoka, Bronze medal Flavio Canto and world Champion Rafaela Silva.

Born in a small village in Congo, in 1997, when they were 9 and 7 years old Yolande and Popole were taken away from their families and ended up living in a refugee camp in Kinshasa.

Here they started to train in judo and in few years they enter the national team, where they were taught that winning is everything and that you should win at any cost. And if you didn’t win you ended up in prison.

In 2013 they came to Rio de Janeiro for the Judo World Championship and here their coach abandoned them without documents and money. For about eight months they survived thanks to the Congolese community in a very remote and dangerous favela in the north part of the city. Then judo came to rescue them. Caritas, the volunteers’ organization, put them in contact with Gerardo Bernardes who in 2000 had opened in Cidade de Deus, with judo superstar’s Flavio Canto, Instituto Reaçao, a NGO who’s aim is to help kids of the favelas, through judo practice.

Today Instituto Reaçao has five centers of training in five different favelas where they train 1250 kids.

We met the two judokas and Gerardo Bernardes in Cidade de Deus.

“Do they have a chance to win a medal?” I asked Mr. Bernardes. “They wouldn’t be here training if if I didn’t believe so” he replied.

Yolande Mabika and Popole Misenga ride a bus for two hours and a half every day to go to practice. The Instituo Reaçao pay for their rent, their food, their bus tickets and recently it also managed to send them back to school.

About a month ago the Brasilian Olympic committee has decided to sponsor their training with the judo Brazilian team and to pay for their travel expenses to competitions in preparation for the Olympic Games.

This, according to Mr. Bernardes, means that in June, when the International Olympic Committee will announce the refugees team, Popole Misenga and Yolande Mabika’s names will be on that list.

text by Manuela Parrino

click to view the complete set of images in the archive

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Føroyar


© Kevin Faingnaert

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Føroyar


© Kevin Faingnaert

Føroyar is a series about life in remote and sparsely populated villages on the Faroe Islands, an archipelago in the middle of the North Atlantic, halfway between Scotland and Iceland.

Immersing himself within the community, Faingnaert couch-surfed and hitch-hiked his way across the islands, finding doors opening to him everywhere he went. Here, across swathes of snow-veiled landscapes and bordered by dramatic coastline, villages are slowly dropping into decline as more and more of their inhabitants are emigrating from the island in pursuit of greater opportunities.

Though at times lonely and perpetually freezing, Faingnaert learned to appreciate the small, simple comforts of life – listening to stories told in the welcoming warmth of Faroese homes, the sound of songs against the roaring backdrop of the sea, and his memorable encounter with a message-in-a-bottle collector on the beach.

In these clear and pristine landscapes, where villages with populations as low as ten huddle together on the edge of cliffs, Faingnaert reveals a community hanging on firmly to their roots and coloured houses, while underlining that one day these villages must inevitably disappear.

 © Eva Clifford

 

click to view the complete set of images in the archive

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En Plein Air


© Riverboom

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En Plein Air


© Riverboom

Rio's sports seen from above [UPDATED in 2016]

When Dilma Rousseff lit up the Olympic torch in Brasilia, she said “This will be the most beautiful Olympic Games the world  will ever see”. But would they be really? 

The current political turmoil, the transportation’s inefficiency, the pollution of the waters and the lack of infrastructures, all tend to prove Dilma wrong.

This is the tale of a city that is getting ready to host the first Olympic Games in South America and just maybe it's not ready for it!

At 6am, the Carioca are running not to go to work but along the famous beaches of Rio or along the Lagoon. They’re running to practice sports. Any kind of sports: from beach volley to cycling, passing trough rowing, football, windsurf and many more.

Then they do go to work and they usually start wondering whether inflation will go up again, if the next time they will buy groceries the bill will be even more expensive and, they also wonder who, on August 5th, will formally represent the country at the Maracanà Stadium for the opening ceremony.

However it seems that the olympic fever hasn’t hit the city yet.

Rio de Janeiro is on the verge of declaring bankruptcy, Brazil is facing the worst economic recession since the 30’s and many Brazilians, who were cheering in the streets back in October 2009, when Rio won the bid for the Olympic and Brazil was perceived as the next economic “super power", are now convinced that the government should have invested in schools and hospitals instead of Olympic stadiums and new cycle paths.

click to view the complete set of images in the archive

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The Hunter


© Alvaro Laiz

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The Hunter


© Alvaro Laiz

Udege people have lived in the Boreal Jungle for hundreds of years. Due to their close contact with Nature, their beliefs are riddled with references to supernatural forces who shall be respected.
In 1997 a Russian poacher called Markov ran into the trail of a gigantic Amur tiger. Despite the risk, Markov saw the tiger,s footprints as a promise for a better life. He shot the tiger, but was not able to kill it. Udege people believe that if someone attacks a tiger without a reason, Amba will hunt him down. Unexpectedly, Markov unleashed the Amba, the dark side of the tiger.

During the following 72 hours the animal tracked down Markov and killed him. Later investigations suggest that the tiger planned its movements with a rare mix of strategy and instinct and most importantly, with a chilling clarity of purpose: Amba was seeking for revenge.

This animistic belief constitutes the leitmotiv to experience the impact of Nature inthe Udege communities across one of the last remains of shamanism: the Russian Far East hunter,s culture.

About the project

This project has been influenced by the reading of Dersu Uzala (1923), an autobiographical book in which Vladimir Arseniev narrates his research works where he explored and mapped a large part of Primorsky and his experiences in the taiga in the beginning of XX century; The Tiger, a true story of Vengeance and Survival (2011) by John Valiant, which tells about the death of a hunter called Markov after the attack of a tiger, fact that actually happened in 1997 in the same context due to the radical changes in the relationship between men and the boreal jungle, 75 years after Arseniev́s stories; and all the information in recent news in media about the relation of Udege hunters and the Amur Tiger, which has lead both to the limits of extiction.

The subsistence against the balance of ecosystems is one of the core concepts in this project and it is present, with a greater or minor importance, in some of my former series like Wonderland or Transmongolian. Around this concepts The Hunter takes a set of documents, objects, photographs videos and sounds to create a collective portrait where tracks of people, fauna, ecosystem and ways for Udegei people to trascend in the relation with nature are found. Udege means “The people form the Forest” in local dialect.

The animist cult based on observation and dialog with Nature is a way to inhabit and be in contact with the world itself. “According to them, not only people, beasts, birds, fishes and insects have soul and shadow Plants, stones, and all inanimate objects have one”, as Arseniev wrote in his book about Dersu ́s believes. This animist vision remains in natives imaginary, but as is evident throughout John Valiant́s book “The tiger, a true story of survival and vengeance”: “The spiritual and social breakdown came together with great changes in the environment”. A nana tale compiled around 105 begins: “Once upon a time, before the Russian had burned the forests... new inhabitant ́s arrival changed it all” Depopulation, social networks destabilization and deforestation product of the human action, place the few current inhabitants of the taiga in the epicenter of the Udegei tale used to open this project.

click to view the complete set of images in the archive

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Environmental Migrants: The Last Illusion


© Alessandro Grassani

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Environmental Migrants: The Last Illusion


© Alessandro Grassani

A multi-chapters project depicting one of the main and often overlooked consequences of climate change on human populations: the rural-urban environmental migration.

Environmental migration is like an unexploded device: in the not too distant future, the entire planet will have to face the economic and social burden of its consequences. By 2050, one in 45 people will be an environmental migrant—200 million people in total: today there are already 50 millions (source, IOM and UN).

Ninety percent of these 200 million migrants live in developing countries and they will not “land” in the richer nations, but will look for new sources of income in the urban areas of their home countries, which are already overcrowded and often extremely poor. In 2008, for the first time in history, there are more people living in cities than in rural areas and cities will grow even larger due to climate change and to environmental migrants.

This long-term project focuses on this under-explored but looming issue. My research goal is to offer a glimpse on how our planet and cities are changing for the worse and to understand the personal narratives of this target migratory population, to document and tell their stories in order to disclose the devastating social impact of environmentally driven migration from rural to urban areas.

Mongolia, Bangladesh, Kenya and Haiti are some of the countries most hit by the phenomenon of environmental migration (source: IOM, International Organization for Migration). I have focused on these geographical areas in order to tell about the various forms that climatic changes can take on a global level. In my story, I use one narrative pattern: in every country I compare the stories of people who struggle against environmental adversity in the countryside with the poor living conditions of the environmental migrants packed into the booming slums of capital cities. This is ground zero for environmental migrants today—a situation which will only become more and more critical in the years to come.

MONGOLIA, ULAN BATOR
In 2010, during one of the harshest winters, more than 8 million livestock died in Mongolia. Around 20,000 herdsmen had no other choice but to migrate towards the Capital, Ulan Bator, which has doubled its population in the last 20 years.

KENYA, NAIROBI
Kenya’s pastoral population has been among the hardest hit by climate change in Africa. Droughts and wars between different pastoral groups seeking pasture and water for their animals are pushing many Kenyans dreaming of a better future towards Nairobi. According to a 2009 UN-Habitat, in the last 20 years, the numbers of environmental migrants arrived to Nairobi increased from 26% to 74%.

BANGLADESH, DHAKA
Bangladesh is one of the countries more seriously affected by climate change. Dhaka, its capital, has a population of 14 million which is expected to increase to 50 million by 2050. Dhaka has over 300,000 newcomers entering the city each year. Many of them are environmental migrants.

HAITI, PORT AU PRINCE
Haiti is one of the world’s most endangered places vis-a-vis climate change. According to the UN and IOM, as drought, cyclones, hurricanes, floods become more frequent, their impact will be amplified specifically in Haiti by the country’s existing environmental degradation.

Indeed, Haiti is almost completely denuded of trees, making Haiti’s environment one of the most fragile in the world. The vulnerability of the country to natural disasters has triggered waves of internal migration from rural to urban areas. In Port-au-Prince, the country’s capital and largest city, half of the residents were not born there and the overcrowded city continues to serve as the main destination for thousands of environmental migrants every year.

click to view the complete set of images in the archive

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Little Odessa


© Franck Bohbot

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Little Odessa


© Franck Bohbot

Unlike its famed neighbour, Coney Island—with whom it spent the better part of the 20th century unsuccessfully competing—Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach remains largely un-mythologized, its cultural narrative unclear even to the New Yorkers who frequent its sun-baked sands during the summer months. Originally intended as a resort for affluent Americans, various unforeseen economic factors contributed to its gradual decline, not least the rebuilding of the Brighton Beach railway, which, in making the neighborhoods more accessible, also encouraged visitors to leave at the end of the day instead of settling in at the grand hotel.

Even during the ‘60s and ‘70s, when the increasingly impoverished area was afflicted by a drugs and arson epidemic, it remained an active summertime destination, its local residents—longtime black and Latino inhabitants alongside newly arrived European and Russian Jews—contrasting sharply with its fair-weather beach-seeking crowds. It was not until the ‘90s, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and a mass influx of ex-Soviet immigrants from Ukraine, that Brighton Beach saw the beginning of an upturn as Russian clubs, shops, restaurants and bars sprang up all over ‘Little Odessa,’ as it now became known.  

Bohbot’s images offer a largely architectural study of the neighborhoods, where signs and storefronts, underpasses and densely built residential homes serve as hieroglyphic clues to its layered ethnic and cultural identity. Out of the murky shadows and bruised indigos of evening, an after-hours Brighton Beach takes shape, whose dim streets and alleyways lit by chintzy neons more closely resemble the set for a Russian gangster film than a beachside resort neighborhoods—not coincidentally, the area is a known (secret) hub for Russian organized crime. To the average beach-seeking visitor, these scenes are all but invisible; most depart by sunset, having seen only the sun, sand, and luxurious condominiums looking out over the Atlantic (never back towards Little Odessa).

Named first after an English seaside resort, then re-christened with the name of a Ukrainian port city, all the while striving to become more like the nearby Manhattan Beach and Coney Island, Brighton Beach has always existed as a kind of distorted reflection of a pre-existing place—“a Jewish immigrant’s idea of what an American’s idea of Russia may be” is how one author described its present incarnation. Yet in its almost-familiarity, with the unlikely collision of such varied ethnic and social worlds, it has become, in a way no one could have predicted, the strange and spectacular escape from reality it so fervently aspired to become. 

Text By Elizabeth Breiner

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