The title for this exhibition comes from Donald Weber’s recently published book of photographs from his six-year sojourn through Russia and the Ukraine. Weber’s Interrogations is, in large part, a collection of startlingly blunt portraits of prisoners being interrogated. This exhibition focuses not on these portraits, but rather the preface images leading up to the individual interrogations. It is the salient day-to-day imagery that Weber captures through his wanderings from city to city. They give us a glimpse of the people, the country and the harshness of the environment.
One image in this exhibition that is conceivably the thematic signifier is surreptitiously located around a corner. The photograph of a prisoner being interrogated is seemingly separate from the main exhibition. The viewer encounters this photograph of a man nervously avoiding eye contact; the portrait creates the dynamic of viewer as interrogator. Weber’s images demands scrutiny of this transaction. When do we choose to look and when do we decide to look away?
– Patrick Macaulay
Following an exploratory trip to Chernobyl in 2005, Donald Weber soon returned to the abandoned site of the nuclear disaster and spent the next six years in Russia and Ukraine photographing the ruins of the unstoppable storm we call history. Traveling and living with ordinary people who had survived much – had survived everything – Weber began to see the modern state as a primitive and bloody sacrificial rite of unnamed power.
Interrogations is the result of his personal quest to uncover the hidden meaning of the bloody 20th century. Weber insistently and provocatively addresses his questions, both to the living survivors and to the ghosts of the state’s innumerable victims, resurrecting their final hours by taking their point of view, and performing a kind of incantatory meditation over their private encounters with power.
The policemen, working girls, thugs, dissidents and hustlers who inhabit these pages are all orphans of a secret history; the outlines of our collective fate takes shape in Weber’s epic work, expanding our awareness of what it means to be an actor in today’s dark opera.
Donald Weber originally trained as an architect and worked with the renowned Rem Koolhaas before turning to photography. A member of the acclaimed VII photo agency, he is a freelance photographer specializing in globalization issues in the developing world. The author of two award-winning books on the post-modern state, Weber has done foreign assignments for The New York Times magazine, Newsweek, the Guardian, and Stern, amongst others, and has exhibited worldwide. He has won many of photography’s top prizes including a Guggenheim Fellowship and two World Press Photo awards.