Guantanamo and Its Remaining Prisoners: A Photographer's View

Today, Great Britain took a not-so-subtle stance against the U .S. prison at Guantanamo Bay. Prime Minister David Cameron called the facility a "totally unsatisfactory situation" and promised millions of pounds in compensation to the 16 British residents and citizens who have been detained there. But for most of the 775 prisoners who have passed through Guantanamo since 2001, there  is little hope of official apology or reparations. 

(Story continues below) 

At the end of 2007, I visited the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station for the first time. The front lobby, with its maritime décor, reminded me of a yacht club. A photograph of then-President George W. Bush hung on the wall, above photos of the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of Defense.

On my latest visit this fall, a photo of President Barack Obama presided over Guantanamo's lobby. But otherwise, the surroundings remained largely unchanged. I recognized the crumbling Cold War structures around the base and the glum terrain of bogs and swamps. Giant spools of barbed wire still topped the fences of the camps. And although Obama had vowed to close down the detention center by January 2010, some 170 detainees still resided there.

I saw about 50 of them on my recent tour. A few years ago, several of the detainees yelled in protest when I snapped their pictures. This time they responded more passively, either standing still or quietly hiding themselves behind barriers. Under the Taliban photographs were banned completely, and many Guantanamo residents still object to them on religious grounds. When I toured Camp 4, I saw a newspaper with all images of women redacted under blue ink. The guards told me they had scrawled out the women's faces at the detainees' request.  

Along with this cultural antipathy, there are U.S. government regulations that ban journalists from releasing recognizable images of detainees' faces. So I captured them in fragments--an eye peeking above a guard's shoulder, the back of a head, a profile partially hidden behind a manila folder. Through such images, I hoped to give the world a glimpse of these mysterious figures whose fate is still unknown.

Presented by

Louie Palu is a photojournalist who has been covering the war in Afghanistan since 2006. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Time, Newsweek, and The Economist, as well as in numerous collections. More

Louie Palu is an award-winning photojournalist whose work is included in numerous collections (at the George Eastman House International Museum of Film and Photography, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and elsewhere) and has been featured publications such as The New Yorker, The New York Times, TIME, Newsweek, and The Economist. He has been covering the war in Afghanistan since 2006.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Global

Just In