25 August 2006

Cade Martin

This poster is part of the publicity for the Campaign to Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Traffiking sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The image was made by Washington DC based photographer Cade Martin. It is one of a number of truly creepy photographs depicting women who have been forced into sexual slavery.

The scenes Martin portrays are fictitious. The women involved are actors or models playing a part and in that sense the images remind me of Leon Golub's "Interrogation" paintings. Golub relied on photographs of sado-masochistic pornography as models for the pain of torture. That was in the relatively innocent days before the "bad apples" at Abu Ghraib provided us with images of actual torture from which future painters might work. In any case, I find Martin's photographs creepy in much the same way that Golub's paintings are. Here is another image from the same series:

"Human Trafficking." © Cade Martin.

These images raise for me an important question. One the one hand, they are fictitious, staged and so not "documentary" in any standard sense. On the other hand, they depict an extremely harsh reality in a powerful way. How do we classify these in terms of the standard (and I think highly unsatisfactory) categories of art versus documentary photography? This powerful and important use of photography clearly breaks through that tired dichotomy.

PS: A good place to start for information on contemporary human trafficking is Kevin Bales Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy (University of California Press). See also the organization for which Bales works - Free the Slaves.

PS#2: You might also see this useful page from the BBC - "Slavery in the 21st Century. "

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I should start by saying that I think this is a crucial issue, thanks for bringing attention to it. However, I am puzzled by my reaction to these images. At first I found them to be not unbelievable in the sense that what they portray does not exist - but in the sense that they seemed less than real, not authentic. I could not however determine for myself whether that was because you inform readers in your post that they are in fact stage, or whether it was how the images and the women in them looked and "felt" to me. It is a dilemma.
Then I visited the site you direct readers to for more information and the question became more muddied for me. Having read some of the information I wondered if the less than "real" feel of the images was not deliberate. Part of the campaign message is that human tafficking and women being forced into postitution takes place in our communities and is not necessarily obvious to us unless we pay close attention. Not sure if that adds anything to your post or questions, but I certainly found it thought provoking - thanks.

26 August, 2006 08:34  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Thanks for the comment. There is one other shot from this series that I saw in a magazine but cannot find on line that is even creepier than these. Like the poster shown here there is a shadowy man in the foreground and a woman - clearly depicting a prostitute - in sharper focus in the background. Perhaps these images draw the realism as well ass their lack of credibility from hte similarity to movie or tv scenes? I am not sure but I think Martin is indeed playing with the boundary between reality and fiction to interesting effect here. He is, I suspect, trying to calal into quesiton what we take as "familiar."

26 August, 2006 11:17  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

PS: On the last reply I should also add that it s important to keep in mind that (I suspect) these Dept of H&HS posters are meant to be displayed primarily in Social Service & Law Enforcement Agnecies. I suspect that there is a set of conventions for addressing the audiences (professionals and "clients") in such venues.

26 August, 2006 12:33  
Blogger bjorke said...

My first impression from the top image, before reading any text, was that it was a still from a current-fashion horror movie, where the actors/characters are steadily eliminated in a "disposable people" fashion. I wonder how often these images are simply glanced at b7y passerby and otherwise superficially read as snips of entertainment. The pain and terror of others seems to remain a perennial form (and often popular among that very demographic group -- teenagers)

27 August, 2006 18:09  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Human trafficking is creepy, hence the creepy images. I think you should look at Mr. Martin's work from a different perspective. He was elected to ilicit an emotion w/ his photographs. The vrey fact that you are all writing about it is a success in and of itself. Now many people who may not have noticed the campaign will be on the lookout. Well done!

01 March, 2007 15:18  

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