During the invasion and occupation of Iraq coalition forces detained tens of thousands of people. Particularly in the early years, the vast majority of Iraqis picked up were harassed, mistreated, and tortured. How you define their treatment depends on how you define torture. Is it only torture when, as one Justice Department official put it, it leads to “death, organ failure, or permanent damage”? Is waterboarding torture? If one is stripped naked, chained to a door, locked in a darkened room for 23 hours a day, beaten at regular intervals for weeks or months on end with one bathroom break and one meal a day—is that torture? If your son or daughter happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time while traveling abroad, and he or she was picked up and treated this way, with no charges filed and no notice to family, would you feel that your child had been tortured? The individuals shown in these portraits are Iraqis who were detained by the United States military and its surrogates. All were tortured and abused, and all were released without being charged. The portraits were taken in 2006 in Amman, Jordan and 2007 in Istanbul.
I started this project ten years ago and the subject is as pertinent today as it was then. In this election year with several of the candidates for president publicly advocating the illegal use of torture, it is as important as ever to put a face on the individuals being victimized by this policy.
Chris Bartlett is a documentary and human rights portrait photographer. His projects have included military rape survivors, portraits of Iraqi former detainees who were tortured and abused by the U.S. military, and Burmese dissidents and former political prisoners. His Iraqi detainee portraits were first shown and the Open Society Foundation’s Moving Walls exhibition. The project was reinterpreted as an installation and shown at Photoville 2014 in Brooklyn after which it travelled to Houston Fotofest (February 2015) and the Hamburg Triennial (June 2015). In September of 2015 his portraits of the dissident movement in Burma were exhibited at Photoville 2015. Chris has been interviewed by the BBC, NPR, Canadian Public Radio, Al Jazeera, the British Journal of Photography and many others.
Chris is also a commercial still life photographer working primarily in the fashion, beauty, and luxury goods industries. Chris has been published in virtually all the major fashion publications including Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. His commercial clients include Diane Von Furstenberg, Tory Burch, and Kate Spade.