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What We Learned this Week: Mathias Depardon Speaks About His Captivity in Turkey

By David Schonauer   Friday August 11, 2017


“For the first 10 days, I was in total isolation,” says Mathias Depardon.

In a recent interview with the British Journal of Photography, Depardon, a French photographer who was based in Turkey, describes what his life was like after he was detained by Turkish officials on May 8. At the time, he was shooting an assignment for National Geographic in southwest Turkey.

“It was my first day photographing the new settlement of Hasankeyf, 30km from Batman,” he explains, adding that he had been in the region for 10 days when he was stopped. “I was shooting outside a facility, when the police saw me on the CCTV. It was 8am, and the police asked for my credentials and my Turkish press card.”

At the time, notes BJP, Depardon’s card was out of date, though he had lived in Istanbul for five years. He was interrogated for 16 hours in a police station in Hasankeyf, then taken to a detention centre operated by the National Department for Migration in the city of Gaziantep.

As we noted  in May, Depardon was accused of having created “propaganda for a terrorist organization” — namely, the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PPK — based, apparently, on pictures he had taken of the PPK that were previously published in French media outlets. He was, however, never formally charged: An order for his deportation was issued on 11 May, but Depardon was not released.

“The cell was dirty, but I tried to clean it so I would not lose myself,” Depardon tells DJP. “The noise of the guards’ keys became an obsession. I was trying to memorize every sound that I could hear from my cell.”

Reporters Sans Frontiers soon reported on Depardon’s detention, and more than a dozen media organizations – including Le Monde, Libération, National Geographic and Der Spiegel – called for his release. “Turkey, which is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index, is now the world’s biggest prison for professional journalists, with more than 100 detained,” RSF has stated.

On May 21 Depardon began a hunger strike. Five days later, French President, Emmanuel Macron got involved in the case, speaking with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoan. Finally, on June 9, Depardon was released. Now, notes BJP, he is building a new life in France; he has been banned from Turkey for 12 months. Depardon says the episode now seems like “a bad dream,” but adds that what happened to him is nothing compared to what’s happening to Turkish journalists and photographers.

Here are some of the other photo stories we spotlighted this week:
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1. The Iconic Image of the Scaramucci Era


The Mooch is gone. But Reuters photographer Jonathan Ernst's picture of all the president's men, and women, lives on. The photo, featuring an ensemble from the chaotic Donald Trump White House, has become an object of fascination on the internet. At The New Yorker, staff writer Vinson Cunningham said the image could prove to be the defining picture of the White House's recent "Mooch Moment" - the brief period between the hiring and firing of Anthony Scaramucci as the White House communications director. But, we wondered, is the photo more The Apprentice or Reservoir Dogs?


2. The California Dream, Rendered in Vivid Infrared


Katie Ballis  says she got the idea of creating candy-colored infrared photographs of California landscapes after seeing how photographer Richard Mosse used the process to represent the violent conflict in the Eastern Republic of Congo. “In his work it seems like he’s subverting these horrors and creating something aesthetically beautiful,” Ballis says. But, noted AnOther, while Mosse’s work seeks to engage with the unsettling, overlooked horrors of war, Ballis’s series is all about the essence of life itself.


3. A Transgender Coast Guard Officer in Transition

Taylor Miller, now 27, began hormone replacement therapy four years ago and is planning a full gender reassignment surgery. In July 2016, the Pentagon removed its ban on transgender service members, and Miller is now the first openly transitioning U.S. Coast Guard officer. Because of the recent tweets by President Trump, Miller’s Coast Guard career is now uncertain, noted The Washington Post, which featured photographer Amy Osborne’s essay about Miller, shot over the past year.


4. Winners of Nat Geo Travel Photo Contest


Mexican photographer Sergio Tapiro Velasco is the grand-prize winner of National Geographic’s 2017 Travel Photographer of the Year  competition for his image “The Power of Nature,” which shows a lightning strike at the Colima Volcano in Mexico as it erupted on December 13, 2015. Velasco’s photo was selected from over 15,000 entries submitted by photographers in 30 countries. His prize includes $2,500 and a 10-day trip for two to the Galápagos Archipelago with National Geographic Expeditions.


5. Focusing On the Machines that Keep Us Alive


A bedside vigil for his baby son at a neonatal intensive care unit inspired Reiner Riedler’s series “WILL: The Lifesaving Machines,” and the results are both enlightening and moving. “Sitting in that darkened space, watching his tiny boy being cared for by high tech medical equipment to a soothing soundtrack of gentle beeps, the Austrian photographer felt grateful for these remarkable machines,” noted the British Journal of Photography. “Normally you don’t consider technology to be emotional,” Riedler said.
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At top: from Katie Ballis

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