Picture This: Solidarity

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This article is printed in the latest issue of British Journal of Photography magazine, Activism & Protest, delivered direct to you with an 1854 Subscription.

Todd R Darling, Dania Hany, Jess Khol and others respond to the notion of solidarity through image and text, as part of our ongoing series Picture This

“No man is an island entire of itself,” wrote the English poet John Donne, 400 years ago. The world he knew is long gone yet the statement still rings true. The last two years have seen major political shifts on a global, local, and for some, personal scale. Yet despite the deep divisions that surround us, we are more connected than ever.

Across the world many cry out for change, a reassessment of the structures we hold to be self-evident: from the climate crisis to institutional racism, corporate greed to gender inequality. These issues are inexorably linked just like the bond between every voice and action that seeks to dismantle them. Change cannot be brought about in a vacuum. But a solidarity between cause, mind and people can bring a new future, one built on commonality, not separation. Here, Kemka Ajoku, Mitchell Moreno, Lina Geoushy, Todd R Darling, Dania Hany, Jess Kohl, and Lisa Barnard reflect on the notion of solidarity.

Kemka Ajoku

I’ve always felt the need to stand up for myself. I thought that if I couldn’t do it, then no one would do it for me. This was the phase of my life I found myself in for the last three years, and the one I have gradually crawled out of. 

Family and community are two things that have shaped who I am, two themes that keep recurring in my personal work. Learning to unpack who I am not only as an artist, but as a person, allowed me to learn more about myself and the things that influence me today.

Fascinated by the resilience of the artist Frida Kahlo, I wished to explore her theme of solidarity and duality with this image, having sisters Joanna and Jemima sat together holding each other’s hands; a subtle indication of unity and strength that only twins can share. 

kemkaajoku.com

© Kemka Ajoku.

Todd R Darling

28 March, 2017 – Paterson, NJ, United States: In the raucous gallery, citizens deliver impassioned pleas to relieve them of another corrupt politician. Elected officials separate themselves from the people who elected them with barriers and a distance of stale, tacky carpet. They sit in leather thrones while the people must stand to address them. They judge the citizenry as if they were the smartest people in the room instead of the most greedy. The council votes in favour of the embattled mayor, allowing him to keep his job as he faces criminal charges. They’re probably fearful of the precedent it might set that may expose them later should they become mayors and face corruption charges. 

Later, Joey Torres is convicted and sent to prison in disgrace. He is the second mayor of three in 20 years convicted of corruption in Paterson. Recently, the eighth police officer was arrested for stealing money from drug dealers in an ongoing FBI probe of the city’s force. Two are charged with beating an unarmed suicidal man in a city hospital. 

toddrdarling.com

© Todd R Darling.

Mitchell Moreno

This is one of the first photographs I took after being gifted a camera. It is August 2017, a week before [the white supremacist rally at] Charlottesville. At the time, my chosen family and I felt that as well as marching against a recently elected Donald Trump, it was important to mock him; to show that our resistance could be playful, and our queer love greater than his despotic hatred. I wouldn’t make this photograph today. In the context of the terrifying and murderous unfolding of his presidency, it would seem flippant. Solidarity recognises the interconnectedness of struggles.

Under 21st century neoliberalism, Niemöller’s First They Came… needs to be mentally expanded to include other identity categories including – among others – people of colour, the poor, LGBTQIA+ folk, migrants, and disabled people. An attack on the rights of one marginalised group is an attack on the rights of all marginalised people. It is only by building resistance across intersectional borders that we can unpick the systems that oppress us, piece by piece. 

mitchellmoreno.com

© Mitchell Moreno.

Lina Geoushy

I grew up playing football at home with my brothers. I didn’t have the option of getting proper training due to the lack of access to football teams for girls at that time. In addition to that, there are stigmas surrounding girls and women playing football. 

This image is from an ongoing project about women’s football in Egypt. In solidarity, these young women are supporting each other and fighting the deeply rooted stigma that football is a male sport. 

linageoushy.com

© Lina Geoushy.

Dania Hany

It’s easier to conform 

To follow the lines 

The designated paths 

The assigned roles 

 

It’s hard though 

To stop

Rethink, re-examine 

 

Everyday life is burdensome

enough but,

 

A radical act of care

A gentle touch 

A kind gesture  

These things are hard

 

Ideas are timeless, but our understanding of them isn’t 

 

So if you’ll move into this world,

move gently

 

The weight is heavy sometimes

And we’re not all warriors

But we’re all capable of this

A gentle act of presence 

A gentle act of solidarity. 

daniahany.com

 

© Dania Hany.

Jess Kohl

I made this photograph in Tarlac, in the Philippines, in 2018. I was there working on a project about the DIY punk scene in the country, during the time of President Duterte’s regime. I was interested in seeing if this marginalised group had become targets in his ’war on drugs’. This photo was taken in a member of the scene’s backyard, where he and his family had hosted a small but powerful gig, which drew kids from across the country, many of them hitchhiking to get there. The gig was organised to raise money for Wendy, a young girl who had been part of the scene and had become mentally ill and stopped speaking. No one knew why.

Globally, punks are often viewed with hostility by mainstream society, but the reality is very different. The group I spent time with in the Philippines are some of the most hospitable, caring people I’ve met – they spend their time making sure even the poorest members of their communities don’t go hungry, through initiatives like Food Not Bombs. They are proof that even if you have very little, you can still give a lot. 

jesskohl.com

 

© Jess Kohl.

Lisa Barnard

On 28 October 2011, legal action charities Reprieve and Pakistan’s Foundation for Fundamental Rights (FFR) hosted the Waziristan Grand Jirga (council) in Islamabad in order to open an international dialogue on the CIA’s use of drones in Pakistan. Tribal elders and victims’ families from North Waziristan participated. Residents of Waziristan and the FATA regions of Pakistan strongly disputed the CIA’s claim that no ‘non-militant’ had been killed in drone strikes, noting that fatalities included women and children. The Jirga insisted on a new transparency so that the world may make an informed judgment on the efficacy of the war waged on sovereign territory by the intelligence service of a foreign nation.

Waziri-based photojournalist Noor Behram brought pieces of Hellfire missiles collected by families of the victims of alleged drone strikes to the Jirga. We were there to document the events and to listen to the stories from the families of the victims. The images of the missile fragments were used as evidence. 

On 29 August 2021 – 10 years later – a drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan, killed an aid worker and nine members of his family, including seven children. It is clear from this event that by removing soldiers from the ground in Afghanistan there will be a resurgence in remote, non-judicial killings in which many innocent people will be killed. The US military called this a “tragic mistake”, and that those killed were unlikely to be members of the local Islamic State affiliate. They are now considering reparations. 

lisabarnard.co.uk

© Lisa Barnard.
Isaac Huxtable

Isaac Huxtable joined the British Journal of Photography in October 2020, where he is currently the Editorial Assistant. Prior to this, he studied a BA in History of Art at the Courtauld Instititue of Art, London.