Donald Weber

Canada

Interrogations

Interrogations is about a place where justice and mercy and hope and despair are manufactured, bought, bartered and sold; a sound-proofed factory where truth is both the final product and the one thing that never leaves the room.

From 2005-2012, I traveled through Russia and Ukraine photographing the physical and emotional ruins of the unstoppable storm we call history. Meeting and living with ordinary people who had survived much—from wars and conflict, to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, to the fall of the Soviet Union—I began to see the modern State as a primitive, bloody, and sacrificial rite of unnamed and unchecked power.

This project is the result of a personal quest to uncover the hidden meaning of the bloody 20th century, as displayed through private encounters with State power. With each image, I was looking to make a very simple photograph of an actual police interrogation, but a complex portrait of the relationship between truth and power. For truth in this context, is a complicit act, a mutual recognitionhowever fleetingbetween those who hold, and those who must surrender to power. This work interrogates the interrogators.

Over 90 percent of all charges in the Russian judicial system end in guilty pleas, and only experienced criminals or highly-educated defendants stand a chance in such a justice system. It is not designed to give everyone a fair trial. Behind closed doors and outside the view of the public, the feudal system’s trial by ordeal is still very much with us. Without confessions and guilty pleas, courts everywhere would grind to a halt in an instant.

In this way, Interrogations is more than a documentation of the policing practices of a particular time and place. It is a meditation on what these interrogation rooms, and the people who enter and leave them, represent. They are young and old, male and female, weak unfortunates and hardened criminals, all orphans of secret histories and hidden dramas that are scripted and played out by the modern State.