Mari Bastashevski: File 126
I was introduced to the work of Mari Bastashevski by Lucas Blalock and this article on the New Yorker’s photography blog. Her project, File 126 (Disappearing in the Caucasus), focuses on the numerous and disturbing abductions in the areas of Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Dagestan over the course of the Russian/Chechen conflict. “Abduction as a concealment tactic, now most commonly referred to as “no body, no problem”, became prevalent in 2000, during the second Russian-Chechen conflict. Since then, it has become the signature of the Russian counterinsurgency regime, and has varied only in the severity of its application, and continues today.” (Mari Bastashevski)
By photographing the people, places and things left behind by the abducted, Bastashevski humanizes the names contained in the file while conveying a sense of the isolation felt by those left behind when faced with continuous obstruction by government and security officials. According to Bastashevski’s statement, “The law is applied in such a way as to actively discourage the victim’s families from seeking assistance from within the state. Although families continue to file lawsuits with the police, both sides understand that it merely serves to create more paperwork – shelved as soon as it is signed.” (Mari Bastashevski).
As Americans, we enjoy the freedom to photograph virtually anything we please and it is a privilege all too often taken for granted when we think of the risks inherent in the work Bastashevski is pursuing. “As for courage, Bastashevski said that she’s been detained and questioned dozens of times in the past year. ‘I’m almost comfortable with it,” she said, but it’s “merely an occupational hazard compared to the risks that human-rights advocates and journalists in the region put themselves in daily.’” (New Yorker/Photo Booth, June 10th, 2010)
Mari Bastashevski will have work on view at the Moving Walls exhibition at the Open Society Institute. The exhibition is open Monday through February 11, 2011.
For the latest on similar infringements on the freedom of speech and the efforts to protect the rights of journalists and photographers like Mari Bastashevski, please visit The Committee to Protect Journalists – great blog with continual updates from around the world.
*all images copyright Mari Bastashevski