What We Learned This Week: Calls For the Release of Mathias Depardon

By David Schonauer   Wednesday May 31, 2017

Photographer Mathias Depardon must be freed.

As we reported previously, Depardon, a French photojournalist based in Turkey, was arrested and detained by Turkish officials on May 8 while on assignment for National Geographic for a story about the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Hasankeyf, in the country's Batman province.

“Depardon was approached by police while taking pictures of an area where residents of Hasankeyf were to be relocated in case of flooding,” noted the Committee to Protect Journalists, citing a report from the Turkish service of the U.S. government-funded broadcaster Voice of America. “After confiscating his two cameras and reviewing his social media accounts, the police officers detained Depardon on suspicion of 'making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization' in relation to several pictures he had shared three years ago on social media,” according to the VOA. 

The terrorist organization was a reference to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an organization banned in Turkey, noted Time.

Depardon's lawyer, Emine eker, told VOA that a local prosecutor had dropped the accusations against Depardon and ordered him released. “Yet, according to eker, the police officers who initially detained Depardon continued to hold him, eventually transferring him to a migration detention facility in the border province of Gaziantep,” added the CPJ, which also noted that Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists globally.

“Since last year's abortive putsch, Turkish authorities have shut more than 130 media outlets, raising concerns about media freedom in a country that aspires to join the European Union,” added Reuters, which reported this week that Depardon had begun a hunger strike on May 24. In the meantime, noted Time, more than a dozen media organizations – including Le Monde, Libération, National Geographic and Der Spiegel – have called for his release.

“The ordeal to which Mathias Depardon is being subjected is unacceptable and has lasted for too long,” said Johann Bihr, the head of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk for Reporters Without Border.

On May 28, L’Oeil de la Photographie  reporterd that Depardon had interrupted his hunger strike,  “Mathias Depardon is well treated, he knows that his file is carried to the highest level: the journalist has put an end to his hunger strike, which means nothing about the final outcome, but these are positive signals,” said Reporters Without Borders secretary general Christophe Deloire in a statement.

Here are some of the other photo stories we spotlighted this week:

1. Visualizing the Dangers and Hopes of the Underground Railroad

Since 2012, Dallas-based photographer Jeanine Michna-Bales has been retracing the routes of the Underground Railroad, shooting during the night at locations from Louisiana and Alabama to Indiana and Michigan. Her images, we noted, visualize “furtive wanderings through unknown, dark landscapes, the danger and the safety that lurked behind doorways, the immense star-filled skies above and the breaking dawns promising freedom.” Now they have been collected in a book, Through Darkness to Light: Photographs Along the Underground Railroad.

2. China's Over-The-Top Weddings

As China’s middle class grows, pre-arranged marriages have given way to a focus on romance and the couple — and as a tool of this newfound personalization, elaborate pre-wedding studio photo shoots have exploded in popularity, noted National Geographic, which featured photographer Guillaume Herbaut’s images from The Only Studio in Shanghai, a marriage-themed Disneyland with more than 20 sets and a staff of makeup artists, costume designers, and photographers.

3. An Abundance of Faith in Post-War DRC

Born to a Congolese father and Belgian mother, photographer Léonard Pongo was raised in Belgium and first went to the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2011 to cover the country’s the highly anticipated presidential election after years of war. What he found, noted National Geographic, was a people defined more by faith than conflict: More than 70 percent of the DRC’s 77 million inhabitants attend religious service weekly, and of those 90 percent follow some form of Christianity.

4. Willy Rizzo's Beautiful History of Saint-Tropez

By 1950, the fishing village of Saint-Tropez in the south of France had become a second home to Parisian high society and celebrities who often strolled past the lens of famed photographer Willy Rizzo, noted L’Oeil de la Photographie, which featured the series “La belle histoire de Saint-Tropez by Willy Rizzo,” available from Studio Willy Rizzo. The images feature everyone from Françoise Sagan to Jack Nicholson — but first and foremost the stunning Brigitte Bardot — cavorting under the eternal French sun.

5. Screening Room: David Bowman Heads for the Black Hills

In April, Minneapolis-based photographer David Bowman's wife and two teenage daughters headed to Florida for spring break. Bowman himself hopped in his car with a 4x5 camera and drove west to the Black Hills region of South Dakota. "In terms of landscape, the Black Hills mark the beginning of the American West in the northern United States," Bowman told us. One of the results of his trip was a short film, "American Landscape: Black Hills," an ode to large-format landscape photography.
At top: From Jeanine Michna-Bales


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