GTMO GOLD is a documentary photo story produced in a mixed media format to communicate the current status of America’s most controversial prison. The project explores the future of Guantanamo Bay detention camps (GTMO) run under the Joint Task Force (JTF) at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
While on a photographic assignment at Guantanamo Bay’s detention facilities during Ramadan, the information was communicated to me that Trump’s executive order to allow detention center operations to be made permanent was passed. The military prison, located on a plot of land in communist Cuba, has been an expensive and polemical topic and on the frontlines of American history. The once temporary detention center operation is to be opened indefinitely and the cost of running it is not being released under the Trump administration.
Obama had wanted to shut down the expensive and controversial prison, which his administration said costed $450 million a year to run. Under Trump, the current status of GTMO are plans that look thirty to fifty years in the future, along with a design for future prisoners. In addition to this, the JTF are preparing for an aging prison population and for the forty prisoners who are left, Guantanamo Tribunals are long from finished. Plans for wheelchair ramps and an aging prison population’s medical needs are in the works. The expensive undertaking would also see that a new Camp VIII be built for geriatric needs in mind. In light of the current plan to make operations permanent, JTF is asking for $69 million in order to upgrade for the future of detention center operations.
The series follows a procession as seen in traditional documentary photography stories, but the individual images are able to stand alone as well. Through the ink-jet printed photographs, the overt visual experience of GTMO is communicated to the viewer. The aesthetic choice made to enhance the images intent consisted of the photographs being printed on top of imitation gold leaf. The gold comes forth in mid-tones and highlights, while the printed black ink serves to manifest more context in the image frame. The use of gold is representative of the heavy financial costs for detention facility operations.
Water-color paper was used as the platform to print the gold leaf saturated images on. It was hand distressed with the use of Puget Sound salt water, sea salt, and teas. The distressed paper communicates the aging population and resources that are predicted to still be there far into the future.
The visuals, through a mixed media format, relate the future as history. It is a story which reads of contradictions, one of living in the moment, but at the same time planning for the future. GTMO Gold is a visual procession that tells of controversy and continuation.
Puget Sound Salt Water, Sea Salt, Tea, Acrylic, Gold Leaf, Ink
Guantanamo Detention Camp V, Detainee Amenities. 2018 Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Guantanamo Detention Camp V, Koran in Detainee Library. 2018 Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Guantanamo Detention Camp V, Single Cell Unit. 2018 Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.