Guantanamo – 16 years

It came as something of a shock to realise that the prison camp at Guantanamo was set up 16 years ago, on 11th January 2002, and that there are still over 40 people held indefinitely there. As I wrote on My London Diary, almost all:

“were sold to the US by Afghan militias and the Pakistani military for cash bounties with no real evidence of terrorist involvement, but whose torture in CIA secret prisons across the world before arrival at Guantanamo as while as throughout their detention there makes their release too embarrassing to US authorities.”

I photographed two events in London to mark the anniversary, a lunchtime vigil in Trafalgar Square and a candlelit vigil in the evening outside the US Embassy, still then in Grosvenor Square. You can read more and see more pictures in the posts on My London Diary:

Guantanamo Vigil Marks 16 years
Close Guantanamo – 16years

I think the first protest against Guantanmo I attended was possibly in December 2003, though it may just have been the first where I used a digital camera, as relatively few of my pictures on film are on My London Diary, which I set up largely to post my digital work, putting on just a few earlier film images.

Back in those days, the camera I was using was a Nikon D100, and I had only one Nikon lens, a 24-85mm, and would also be using a camera with wider lenses (and longer) loaded with film for most of my work. The rather odd colour of the digital images from those years partly reflects the software used to process the raw files which was at the time limited compared to Lightroom and other current programs, but also my relative inexperience in using digital, though I had been using the camera for around a year.

By January 2006, cameras, software and myself had improved somewhat – and the D200 was perhaps the first digital camera I was really happy with, and many of the pictures were quite respectable. I had also bought several more lenses and had given up using film, working only digitally.

Looking at some of the images full-size, it is apparent how much image processing software has moved on, and I think I could re-process the raw images to produce technically rather superior results – if I had the time. It is one of the advantages of taking pictures in raw format that you can go back and rework them differently, whereas jpegs allow rather less without unacceptable degredation, though Lightroom can often perform a surprisingly good makeover.

Until relatively recently, those bright orange jump suits presented something of a challenge, with some being highly fluorescent which tended to eliminate all detail, but improvements in Lightroom have changed this. Even this year, improvements in the ‘Auto’ setting on the exposure basics have considerably cut down the fiddling involved in this and other challenging situations.

I think this may too have been the first occasion on which I photographed Vanessa Redgrave, and others who spoke included Moazzam Begg, released by that time, and Amani Deghayes whose brother Omar was still being held there.

Later I was pleased to photograph the last British resident held there, Shaker Aamer, after his release, but regular protests continue for the 41 others still held. A site search on ‘My London Diary’ on ‘Guantanamo’ gives over 150 results, and though there may be several links to each protest, there are still reports on a considerable number on the site. Below are links to the four I’ve mentioned here:

December 2003: Guantanamo Bay protest, Whitehall
January 2006: Free British Residents from Guantanamo Bay
January 2018: Close Guantanamo – 16years
January 2018: Guantanamo Vigil Marks 16 years

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