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Posts by: The New Republic

These ‘State-Approved’ Photos from North Korea Reveal a Complex Truth

In a diorama at the Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities, U.S. soldiers are depicted driving a nail into a Korean woman’s head. The regime uses the museum’s gory displays to foster an unsubstantiated narrative that American-led forces massacred 35,000 civilians in Sinchon in 1950.

Meticulously choreographed military parades. Strident news announcements on state television. Missile tests presided over by a grinning Kim Jong Un. Propaganda from North Korea comes to us fully formed and almost alluring in its opacity: a finished product that has been carefully constructed to convey an idealized image of strength and unity.

Carl De Keyzer, a photographer based in Belgium, offers a different and more intimate view: a glimpse of the process of indoctrination within North Korea. From their first day in kindergarten, children are spoon-fed propaganda—from lectures about the legendary feats of Kim Il Sung to field trips to a museum that depicts, in gruesome detail, Americans massacring Koreans. What makes the images all the more remarkable is that De Keyzer was subject to the same restrictions imposed on foreign tourists who visit North Korea. During his four trips to the country over the past two years, he was attended at all times by official minders, and had to submit his photos for state approval.

On Lake Chad, People Are Living on One Meal a Day

A chipped bowl containing a few grains of rice and some dried beans. Grains are in short supply because the government has banned farmers from allowing their crops to grow more than three feet tall along Cameroon’s highways. Militants had been hiding in the fields in order to ambush passing convoys.

Not so long ago, Lake Chad was one of the largest bodies of water in Africa. The thick reeds and vital wetlands around its basin provided vast freshwater reserves, breeding grounds for fish, fertile soil for agriculture, and grasslands where farmers grazed their animals. But as climate change has taken its toll, the lake has shrunk by 90 percent. Today, only 965 square miles remain. Those who still live by the lake struggle to survive, beset by chronic drought and the slow onset of ecological catastrophe.

This looming crisis has only worsened with the rise of Boko Haram, which has driven some 74,000 Nigerians into neighboring Cameroon. More refugees and fewer crops have proven to be a deadly combination in a region already ravaged by climate change. More than seven million people around Lake Chad are now suffering from severe hunger, including 500,000 children wracked by acute malnutrition. Those fortunate enough to be granted a spot in a refugee camp often receive no more than one meal a day.

We often turn away from images of the starving and hungry, from the skeletal profiles and ­hollowed­­-­out eyes that attest to the misery and suffering. But photographer Chris de Bode has found a way to focus our attention on this forgotten crisis. A single vegetable, a dried fish, a bowl of red maize—sometimes this is all a mother has to divide between her children each day. She may have to choose to feed her two youngest and send the teenagers to a village to beg for food. These images do not ask us to look into their eyes and see ourselves. They ask us to look at the emptiness of their bowls and reflect on the fullness of our own. We see their hunger through what little they have. We measure their suffering in the most universal unit of all: a single meal.

Read the rest of Lisa Palmer’s article on Chris de Bode’s photographs at The New Republic.

A Look at Life for a Refugee Family Before Trump

Shaimaa and Haider crammed for the U.S. citizenship exam together. Shaimaa took the oath on January 14, 2015, and Haider followed three months later. “I finally saw a future,” he says. During the ceremony, the judge let Karar sit in one of the jury seats. “That made me feel wonderful,” he recalls.

America drove the Bahar family from their country. Then it gave them a new one.

A Sobering Look at Hate Groups in America

We are forced to confront many things in the images that photographer Johnny Milano spent five years capturing. The ceremonial burning of a cross and a swastika in an open field. The silhouette of a child, a young and defenseless observer of hate, situated between the flaming structures. The Nazi symbol on shirt and skin. Some of the images look modern; others seem straight out of an earlier era. They represent a people striving to keep with tradition, while simultaneously looking to rebrand their beliefs and appeal to new followers. Membership spreads not simply through inheritance, but through outreach.

Taken together, Milano’s images make it impossible to deny that white supremacy is alive and well in this country. Powered by social media platforms, and encouraged by the rise of Trump-as-champion, America’s hate groups have emerged from the fringes with a newfound sense of respectability. In 2015 alone, the number of homegrown hate groups jumped by 14 percent—a proliferation unprecedented in recent times.

These groups—Klansmen, neo-Nazis, white nationalists—did more than talk and meet and march. They plotted to turn their hatred into violence. “They laid plans to attack courthouses, banks, festivals, funerals, schools, mosques, churches, synagogues, clinics, water-treatment plants, and power grids,” reports the Southern Poverty Law Center. “They used firearms, bombs, C-4 plastic explosives, knives, and grenades.”

It would be all too easy to turn away from this reality, or consign it to the distant past. But Milano turned his camera lens directly toward it.

Read the rest of Van Jones‘s article on Johnny Milano’s photographs at The New Republic.

The Power and Paranoia of Washington, DC, in Photos

A white van on the National Mall, Washington, DC. © Mike Osborne

The residence of Dick Cheney, McLean, VA. © Mike Osborne

Global conspiracies, secret dossiers, Russian hackers, terrorist plots; if the United States seems like it’s experiencing a nationwide panic attack right now, its most fervent hyperventilations might be best observed in Washington, D.C., where power and paranoia live in close proximity, reinforcing one another’s potency.

“I don’t think I’d be alone in saying there’s kind of a collective meltdown taking place,” says Austin-based photographer Mike Osborne, whose series White Vans & Black Suburbans serves as a kind of funhouse mirror for this sensation, reflecting the nation’s psychosis back on itself in a manner that’s by turns amusing and disturbing. Osborne moved to D.C. to teach at Georgetown University in 2012, but didn’t start taking photos in the capital and the surrounding area until two years later. Once, as he set up his tripod in a Crystal City parking lot to photograph a nondescript building he’d noticed near Reagan Airport, two camouflaged security officers confronted him. Did he know he was on government property? Did he know that his car, had it been laced with explosives, could bring down a nearby hotel, and by extension, the building they were guarding?

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