Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Brent Stirton's horribly heartbreaking photography: UKRAINE... SEX, DRUGS, POVERTY & HIV (via stasinka).

I wouldn't want to look at this more than once, and I'd advise those of you who are overly sensitive not to look at it at all.

The less emotional part of me thinks the photos are incredible and the photographer is a hero. Reality sucks big time, though.


  1. Thanks for this link. These are incredibly powerful photos that make me think of the reaction I had watching the movie Transpotting again after my little Julija was born. There is a scene in the movie that has a similar sensibility as some of the photos- (you know, if you've seen the movie and photos linked here, the one of the little one that dies due to the neglect). When I saw that scene, I was filled with a feeling that I could not quite comprehend; it was rage, disgust, a deep and heavy kind of depressing feeling. It was this incomprehensible feeling of sickness when faced with the total absence of anything human or dignified. I was mad at the movie, if not exactly at the characters or the junkie types; I was mad that the movie was too glamorous. Having had friends who struggle with this horrible affliction, the movie was all too glamor. Many of these pictures fill you up with the same feeling when encountering something so outside of life in its essence, but this time without any glamorizing. That is art speaking the truth, which the movie Trainspotting barely did (I don't know about the book, never read it) . I guess I had to become a father to realize that.

  2. oh, i dont know what to say! like you said, neeka, this photography is heartbreaking!
    and like the person commenting before me said, i now feel sort of rage, disgust and depression.

    will i be able to get these photos off my head? today or anytime?

    but thanks, anyway, for the link, neeka!

  3. This is not reality, this is sensationalism in action.

    In what way will the people who are in these photos benefit from these photos being taken? 0.

    They are they misery are put up in display like a circus for imbecils from other places to look at and think "Hey, how great that i am not like that, my life isn't so bad after all."

    Well if this is a Circus
    1. A ticket wasn't paid to the artists.
    2. These people are not Therapists and are not being paid for it
    3. The pretension that the photographer is just trying to gain awareness is bullshit, this guy is a careerist living off other people's misery like a fucking vulture.

    These people just need help, not invasion of privacy.

    The People in the photo and their misery is not disgusting, the photographer is disgusting. shame on him.

  4. Bullshit, Augusto.

    These particular people have agreed to have their pictures taken, the photographer has been introduced to them and into their world, and he should be given credit for not freaking out and walking away. They do look like they want their stories to be told - and if because of this some help comes their way - money, medication, anything - and they won't have to suck other people's dicks for that help - well, that would be great and the violation of their privacy would be justified. Actually, what privacy are you talking about? I don't know anything about you, Augusto, just your name and that you're from Portugal - so I assume you haven't spent a minute of your life in a Soviet hospital or as a prostitute. There ain't no privacy there. As for the imbeciles, most of them are now wasting millions on their campaigns, and it won't hurt for them to glance at these photos - a good reality check. This heartbreak is a huge part of the country they've all been in charge of for years, and it's good there's someone to remind them to be ashamed and do something at last.

  5. How about getting help without photos being taken? Why is this option discarded?
    How about, the photographer actually helping them without taking their photos? i guess this would be out of the question?

    Do they really want their photo taken, or do they want help? if they can get help without the photo being taken, would they still want their photos taken?

    And its not about Privacy as in some Magnate or Famous people wanting privacy, im talking about human privacy, the right to dignity particularly for someone who is in the worst situation.

    I haven't been on such situation, but i have talked with beggars , drug addicts and generally people who are not exactly on the luckiest side of life. And they have pride too, human pride.

    The argument that a photographer does this things for charity is not fullproof and you know it.

    And the corrupt politicians shame or absence of shame should not be made possible at the expense of these people's lives. this is what i say.

    Just because i am not a prostitute or haven't been in a Soviet hospital doesn't mean i am automatically disqualified to give my opinion on human dispair around the world, or is it?
    And i suspect the photographer isn't a prostitute either! so how does that qualify him to make any moral decision on this mater?(according to your criteria)
    (ok, just a phrase, but you're the one who pulled it.)

    And lets face it, will these people (these, in the photos), be helped in any way because of these photos? i don't think so.

    What i wrote was my opinion, and don't worry plenty of newspapers and magazines who love this type of thing, the photographer won't starve.

    (from my part i got nothing more to say about this.)

  6. i want to be honest with you:

    i wonder how this happened. how did the people in the photos get into the situation that they're in? often it is explained with "transition after the break-down of the soviet system" that saw millions of people struggling while their lives which they used to live was changed so drastically.

    yes, it is true, the break-down of socialism created a lot of trouble. social market economy and democracy implementation which started meant getting used to something completely new.
    but why was it so difficult for so many people to adjust to it? i don't understand what made them get into this horrible and horrifying situation. why did they give up themselves, their futures, their children? why do they put their lives and even those of their children at risk?

    it cannot ONLY have been the break-down of the soviet system which caused all that...

  7. You know, I agree with you on one thing, Augusto: these photos aren't gonna help the people on them in any way. Everyone - including you and me - will discuss whether it's ethical to publish this stuff or not, whether it's got artistic value or is pure reportage, whether those people are to blame for their own problems or maybe it's the government that is responsible, or the opposition that used to be the government, etc. And then we'll move on to something else. And it's not that the politicians aren't using these people in their campaigns. They do. It's like the Palestinians - they live in shit despite years of publicity. Meanwhile, Arafat's widow and daughter enjoy all those millions of the EU's aid. And the rest of them vote for Hamas.

    I still don't think that the photographer is guilty of anything, though - regardless of his motives.

  8. to Anonymous:

    I have a few theories..
    But the people whom i blame most are criminals, corrupt officials who sold State property,industries, etc to their pals (or themselves) at the price of popcorn.

    Ive heard of a scheme told by a russian with his face covered (or those tricks they use in tv to protect witnesses), telling how a State official in charge of a bank, would lend for example, 100.000 USD or 1.000.000 USD (ridiculous small amounts if one thinks of it) to a buddy or some accomplice, then with this money they would buy a State company (we're talking industries, stuff worth 10's, 100's of millions, sometimes billions), and then they would proceed to open the company's safe, take out money, and pay the debt to the bank with the companies money and own it for free. These guys went on to become Oligarchs in the period of 1990-2000. Some of them are now in jail or broke, sadly not all.

    Then there's the criminals and all sorts of scum who exploited their fellow citizen. And so a climate worse than Chicago 30's was created. Where Mayors get shot, journalists disappear, and sometimes bosses of important companies are kidnapped or worse.

    And when there's no jobs people have to survive, so it is not that surprising that even honest people sometimes have to resort to corrupt ways, its the system. One has to eat.

    I don't think the guilt lies entirely on Soviet leaders though,
    i think the West played a part too.
    Switzerland's Banks helped out a lot of these Oligarchs who sabotaged the place. Some of them live in the UK now.
    The Cold War did not end in 1 day, in my opinion, so i guess NATO just wanted to finish the Soviets off while they had the chance.

    One thing is for sure, when society is in a mess, its hard to imagine a solution, but perhaps im one of the few who believes that all of these Ex-Soviet countries will recover and join the ranks of "developed" countries and who knows perhaps even surpass them.
    I wouldn't mind one bit.

    One scary aspect is that there is almost an entire lost generation who grew up in this period 1990's-2000+'s.

    The social consequences of this will be enormous. If one thinks of the amount of kids growing up in unstable families, or no families at all. There's no guarantee that they will become adults distinguishing between right and wrong. But lets not be pessimistic, things will improve, they have to!

    But hey, this is JUST my opinion.

  9. wow, augusto, you're very optimistic in your last paragraph. but, hey, i think this is the only way we should think, otherwise we could give up and let it go. we have to believe in things improving, otherwise they won't improve at all.

    thank you for giving your opinion and answering my question about about the break-down of the soviet system! :-)

  10. Poverty/drugs + lack of governmental funding = death
    And the pictures and stories are reality.
    Those of us who live in the West are very lucky.

  11. Today I had discussion with one Canadian about movies. He said to me that why people make and watch movies, if they are all biased: the ideas or histories are shown through the eyes of producers and actors etc. He finished his statement with saying someting like: "I want to explore world on my own". OK...ok, go ahead, but then I am 100% sure that he will never learn about many things which have happened in the past, or are happening now in the different parts of the world, in lives of different people.

    What I want to say here that I would never learn about HIV in Ukraine, if not those pictures of Brent Stirton, who dared to take them. Honestly, yes, they are freaking, I stopped to watch them after the 3rd or the 4th (probably will do that somewhen later), but I am sure that these pictures added something new to my awareness of and attitude toward such problem. Thank you, Veronica, for providing the link to those pictures.

  12. To Augusto,

    I find your explanation here for how people could have ended up in this situation is fair, especially in response to the comment from anonymous that more or less suggested laying a lot of the blame in the individuals, perhaps for some character inculcated by Soviet times that anonymous seems to think they should have overcome. . .

    However, I find the people who willingly participated in these photos to be courageous, and I find the photographer (if indeed these folks were willingly photographed) doing a service. He was not just manipulating them for his own sake, whatever that may have been.

    It is way too simplistic to make this a case of junkxploitation.

    Your stance in this regard seems deep but really is quite shallow.

    Of course, that's just my opinion. . .

  13. To Stefan,

    I tend to give priority to someone who is worse off. Perhaps i am being too harsh on the photographer, who perhaps is an amazing and nice human being.
    Still, im more for results, than awareness campaigns.

    For example, some years ago, a bridge collapsed, and the families who lost their relatives are sitting there, trying to find out what happened (obviously deeply sad). And journalists come over, with their typical line "How do you feel?"

    It's a side of journalism i don't like. You can consider it shallow if you want, but i simply would not do it.

    Again, perhaps i am being too hard on the photographer, but between being too hard on the photographer and too hard on those people, my choice is made.

    This is obviously generalization, which is a tool that everyone is forced to use more or less, after all, its difficult to understand the world with its 6 billion people with 6 billion perspectives.

    This photographer is a person, has a name, a life, a story, etc. How can i "guess" him so quickly, by just 1 action? perhaps shallow, but the majority of people tend to fit in quite well in generalizations.

    Secondly, there's this phenomenon, (perhaps recent, perhaps not), of the pursuit of the grotesque. There's some pretty freaky sites out there in this regard. I would hate these poor people's images would end up in one of those sites, for some bored teenagers or worst to look at and make shallow comments. Because i think it would be an insult to the people in these photos, not because i care about people who seek or idolize grotesque art.

    The Media, including photographs and movies, have immense power on the perception of reality people have. Now, if we consider that raising awareness and that everything should be documented so that others may watch and become aware, on this line of thought we have videotaped murders, rapes, torture etc. With a phenomenon called copycats , or lets say, less guided people, this is not something i think leads to a good path. And someone else's misery should not become art. im firmly opposed to this.

    Option nº2: Because of these or similar photographs, these people (or others, not necessarily these), will be helped out of their situation and manage to live with minimum conditions.

    (Im not a pessimist, but i just don't think this will happen.)

    still, feel free to consider my view as shallow. Every true personal opinion is a risk.

    Ok, ill shut up for a while. Getting too much heat from this, need to recharge batteries.

    P.S.- regarding Anonymous's post, i really wish he/she had written a name, even if symbolic. And i had no intention to invade the comments with subjects not directly related to the original post or blogger will crash)