“Asselin’s Monsanto® is a courageous, investigative project that connects evidence-driven photography and visual research to the democratisation of knowledge; it’s important that this book exists in physical form, as a document, and not just in the virtual world,” says Cristiano Raimondi of Mathieu Asselin’s photobook Monsanto®. A Photographic Investigation. Raimondi is head of development and international projects at the New National Museum of Monaco and an invited curator for Platform 2017 at this year’s Paris Photo, but he’s speaking as a jury member for the 2017 Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards because Asselin’s book has just won the prestigious First PhotoBook prize.
“When I first arrived, my military escort said, ‘Gitmo: the best posting a soldier can have. There’s so much fun here!’,” recalls US photographer Debi Cornwall. “So I said, ‘Show me the fun!’” She had just touched down at Guantánamo Bay naval base, home to the infamous detention centre established in 2002 by US president George W Bush for the interrogation of suspected terrorists, enemy combatants and “extremely dangerous individuals” – “the worst of the worst, they call them” – following the 9/11 attacks. Since then, it has forged a reputation as hell on earth, where men are held for years without charge or legal process, and are often tortured. With 12 years’ experience of working as a wrongful-conviction lawyer, Cornwall began to enquire.
Combining projects shot in China, Cameroon, the USA and Namibia, As Entertaining As Possible gives an insight into how images “have transformed the individual into a privileged witness to his own alienation”
After 12 years working as a lawyer, Debi Cornwall began to explore life in, and the legacy of, the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. As well as being a controversial military enclave on the soil of a sovereign state, the base’s prison (often shortened to GTMO, or Gitmo, by American soldiers stationed there) continues to hold more than a hundred men detained for many years as part of the US government’s War on Terror. The latest segment of Cornwall’s project, after the previous series Gitmo at Home, Gitmo at Play, looks not at the heavily regulated prison, but instead at the commodification of the experience of war. Gitmo on Sale documents souvenir items sold in the base’s shops and explicitly marketed to the American soldiers stationed there. Cornwall explains: ‘I became interested in exploring the role of commerce in the exercise of American power there after photographing some of the signage inside the NEX [the base’s military-subsidised supermarket]. “The souvenirs I photographed were selected for one of two reasons: either they celebrated the military experience explicitly, …