The following selection of pictures has been curated by the foreign correspondence. It is not to suggest a hierarchy or impose special importance on specific topics, individuals or geographical regions. Rather, the selection documents and reflects internal conversations about image making and the ability of images to create certain narratives we have led in this specific group.
This image shows a mountain range at the lake in Priboj, Serbia. Snow covers parts of the mountains and trees. The sky is a triste grey which the mountains fade into the further away they are. But this is just the background of the picture. Due to the low angle of the photo the ground represents 3/4 of the picture to make sure that this is the first thing to grab the viewer’s attention. Water bottles, lighters, cans and plastic packaging ruin the idyllic panorama of nature. This image is probably one of many reasons why the EU is still critical about Serbia joining. The waste management unfortunately seems to be one of the smallest issues. Lack of jobs and the never-ending Serbia-Kosovo conflict are huge burdens to Serbian politics and the citizens. Nature is clearly suffering from the worrying circumstances. This image does not only show the environmental crisis Serbia is facing, but the humanitarian one as well.
Comment by Elisa
While calls for pro-environmental behaviour change among individuals have become more and more commonplace within most societies and governments, several complex issues do not receive much attention. Unsuccessful waste management has turned Potpeć Lake in Serbia into a watery landfill and represents one of the currently rather overlooked problems – unlike climate change-induced heat waves. In addition to working to mitigate climate change issues by reducing carbon emissions and promoting clean energy and lifestyle changes, there are numerous ways to condemn an even more challenging environmental future. When it comes to climate change, the future is now.
Comment by Nora Wacker
‘There is plenty of fish in the sea’ can be rephrased to ‘there is plenty of plastic in the sea’. All over the world, nature is used as a rubbish bin. The image should put us to shame, it symbolises humanity’s lack of dignity towards nature. Let us not forget: there is so much plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean that some have dubbed it the sixth continent. The picture above presents the consequences of ongoing consumption and lack of innovation in sustainable supply methods. We must finally come to our senses and understand the trivial formula: Wasting nature’s resources and consuming more than we have will kill humanity sooner or later.
Comment by Sarah Hegazy
At first glance, you see an idyllic landscape: a body of water surrounded by snow-covered mountains, on which stand bare dark trees. The sky is as bright as the snow. A closer look, however, reveals that most of the body of water is covered by a dark mass of wood and colourful plastic garbage, wherefore greenish water emerges only in isolated places. From the description; we can see that the action takes place in Serbia. It is about the Popteć Lake, which has been polluted with garbage due to the lack of waste management in the Balkan countries. It can be assumed that this pollution has destroyed the natural space and the many plastics permanently change the quality of water and habitats.
Comment by Lilly Ott
Prophetical and shun away from over-saturation, this portrait is comparable to genre painting. Calvinist in style and rid of centralised focus, the picture is orchestrated by a light source deriving from the right hand side of the composition. Four protagonists are situated around a cloth-enveloped table, both surrounded and inhibited by a dark, dusty book barricaded study. Three of the personages seem to signal an ongoing discussion whilst the fourth and oldest of the tribe, accentuated by a light which could only be seen as heavenly in nature, is deeply focused in his study of what is presumably a holy scripture. The men are bearded, all wearing dark kippot and matching black suits, mostly paired with white shirts unbuttoned at the neck. The faded glass doors behind the eldest allow us no further perspective into the mysteries behind this darkly lit chamber.
Comment by Shantal Moldenberger
A wise old man with a long white beard, illuminated by light – a common representation of god in renaissance paintings like the famous fresco painting The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo. The dark coloration and the composition of the image are reminiscent of this portrayal by setting the focus on Rabbi Chaim Kanievsy. The three men in the shadow seem to be his assistants, and probably eagerly discussing an issue. They appear in contrast to the Rabbi, resting in himself and acquiring a greater wisdom by reading a book. This presentation underlines his powerful position as a spiritual authority for many Ultra-Orthodox Jews, which has currently become even more important.
Comment by Agnes Hütte
Three men are at the center of this picture: on the left hand forefront, a man wearing a black uniform decorated with the letter combination “HKCS” has turned his back to the camera. Behind him, one sees a second man, seemingly dressed in the same sort of black uniform jacket along with black cotton trousers. His head is protected by a black cap with an illegible, golden symbol. His face is covered not only by the cap’s black visor, but also by his blue facial mask. The piercing blue mask is also worn by the Chinese political activist Joshua Wong, the third man in this photograph. The image documents the moment after Wong’s arrest through government officials. Wong’s brown pullover’s sleeves are held in position by the silver shackles securing his hands and wrists to a silver chain which has been slung around his hips. Like a captive animal being taken for a walk, Wong is presented in chains, held together by one of the two government officials behind him.
What do Wong’s captivators fear? An attempted escape by the activist? Or are we witnessing the Chinese government’s attempt to chaining political outspokenness and mobilising activism?
Comment by Savannah Thümler
Joshua Wong has been arrested by the Chinese state several times for his activism while also being named one of the world’s most inspiring leaders. In 2018 he was even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize – a symbolic act of recognition for his leading role during the Umbrella Movement fighting against China’s decision to rule out full universal suffrage in Hong Kong during the Hong Kong democracy protests of 2014. While authoritarian regimes, such as the Chinese, continuously depend on hierarchical order and systematic suppression, the protesters enact resistance in organized protests gaining support and international attention. As Foucault argues, power relations are neither static nor stable;
“Where there is power, there is resistance, and yet, or rather consequently, this resistance is never in a position of exteriority in relation to power”. 1
Further reading recommendation: Wong’s and Ng’s book „Unfree Speech: The Threat to Global Democracy and Why We Must Act, Now“.
Comment by Nora Wacker
In my eyes, this picture is a mouthpiece of the Chinese government. Even if it gives the appearance of a snapshot, it certainly did not come to the public by chance – the image can only benefit the Chinese government. The picture unmistakably screams: “We will break anyone who stands in our way. Don’t you dare criticise us. We are and we have the power to wreck anybody.” Accordingly, this photograph has a retrospective and a preventive message conveying fear to secure the omnipresent exercise of power by the authoritarian Chinese government. It is one of many echoes of the communist party’s inner workings, inaudibly warning its recipients. Despite the benefits of such images for China, these pictures must go viral to draw attention to China´s crimes – visual experiences matter for changing the status quo. Governments, institutions and companies around the world must not continue to turn a blind eye to the doings of the Chinese government.
Comment by Sarah Hegazy
Due to the hanging shoulders, the powerless posture and tired eyes, Joshua Wong doesn’t appear like a strong, young fighter anymore. He seems disoriented, his gaze empty and his resistance broken. The image of a captive in chains presents a contrasting picture to Wong’s mission to achieve freedom and political justice. One can only imagine what he experienced during his stay in prison, since it is known what inhumane torture methods are used by prison guards in Hong Kong.2
Comment by Agnes Hütte
Seven people analysed the same pictures, resulting in seven different interpretations. After having given the images serious consideration, the importance not only of the pictures discussed, but primarily of the recipient’s background is highlighted: Who speaks, who gets to put truth to the image discussed?
Images are not the objective recording of reality – as soon as the human brain processes an image, subjective attributes are applied to it. We should never assume that other people see the same picture as we do. Images are ubiquitous, this is the interpretation of just a few different minds, to just a speck of political images that can be observed. Concluding, we are curious to know what you, the reader, think: What do you see? How would you interpret these images? Let us know in the comment section below!
1 Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality. New York: Random House, 1978, 95f.
2 Kwong, G., “Wenn die Wärter müde werden, müssen die Gefangenen sich selbst ohrfeigen,” WELT. https://www.welt.de/debatte/kommentare/article207929055/Folter-in-Hongkong-Die-Gefangenen-muessen-sich-selbst-ohrfeigen.html, accessed February 09, 2021.
In all fairness and admitting that all above is correct, still AKK was the main person since she was inaugurated…