Monday, June 30, 2008

Zimbabwe Election

"We were just told to go and vote, so we had to. All night they were singing in the street, revolutionary songs, and chanting that we must go and vote. We were intimidated to vote." --Stella, 35

This group of pictures from Saturday’s New York Times showed Zimbabweans on their election day where they were forced to vote for the only candidate, President Robert Mugabe, for fear of punishment unless they could produce a finger colored by red ink as evidence they had cast their ballot.

According to the newspaper, the subjects agreed to be photographed and interviewed on the condition that their faces not be fully visible while the pictures ran uncredited for fear of reprisal against the photographer.

Given the information provided - the first name and age of each subject as well as in many cases, enough of the person pictured to make them identifiable - I'm not sure the story holds together in quite the way the front page treatment suggests. However, as testimonial to the freedom we often take for granted, as well as a creative use of photography, they were a striking group of pictures.

"I put an X on both candidates to spoil my ballot because the result will be the same. M.D.C. has withdrawn, so the result is obvious: ZANU will win. I just wanted ink for security reasons. I fear victimization from the ZANU-PF militia. It is obvious they will come door to door. If they see you don't have ink, they will know you are M.D.C." --MacDonald, 33

"I'm not voting at all because the outcome is still the same. Mugabe still wins. I'm not worried about having ink on my finger. Ink or not, it is the same -- they will beat us." --Agnes, 25

"I spoilt my ballot because I wanted to vote for Tsvangirai. I went to vote because I fear victimization if I don't have ink." --David, 32

"I'm registered in Chitingwiza, but there is no use in spending money on transport to get there when the result will be the same." --Loraine, 27

"I spoilt my ballot because this election is not free and fair. It is a one-horse race." --Sidwell, 34

"We have no choice; we must vote. It doesn't matter who I vote for, the result will be the same." --Mary, 43

"I just wanted to finish the process which was started. I don't want to say who I voted for. I just wanted ink on my finger." --Judith, 65

"I did not register. I moved into town recently. This is a one-man race. It is a waste of time." --Edna, 25


Joanna Goddard said...

these shots are incredible.

Barry said...

The layout in yesterday's NYT was heartbreaking. And, when combined with the short statements, captured exactly how fear destroys hope.

One person says, "I just wanted ink on my finger."

Another says, "Ink or not, it is the same -- they will beat us."

dougphoto said...

those are some amazing portraits. I'm glad you put them up.

Unknown said...

these photos are incredible. just beautiful. what a story too.

Pierre said...

Thank you for posting this...

Christopher Paquette said...

Stunning group of images...

Janet said...

Hi, I would like to know if you know who the photographer is who took these? It looks like the work of Pieter Hugo, but I am not sure...
thanks for your great blog.


Tara said...

those words come right to mind when i see the photos.
amazing post! informative and sad.