Clary Estes – Those Who Remain

Nina's granddaughter, Adelena, looks at her grandmother's body during the church service at Nina's funeral. Fatigued from grief she is quiet for much of the event. I occasionally hold her close and we take a moment to grieve and listen to the Orthodox chants of the priests. Like Nina, Magdalena is also diabetic and her family keeps a close eye on her diet and insulin shots everyday.

Clary Estes

Those Who Remain

Hundreds of thousands of people from a corner of eastern Europe were forcibly deported as political exiles during two waves of Soviet repression in the 1940s. Many of them died during the journey or in exile. Others returned home with shattered lives. Only a few survive today.

“Those Who Remain” tells their stories. The Stalinist regime devised the deportation program to identify and exile political dissidents from what is now the Republic of Moldova. Those selected, often for reasons having nothing to do with politics, were killed or exiled with their families to remote regions of Kazakhstan and Siberia. Those who survived had to wait years to be liberated. If they managed to return home, they were systematically silenced and shamed by the Soviet and post-Soviet societies. Only recently, long after most of them died, have they been free to speak publicly about their ordeals.

“Those Who Remain” gives voice to these former deportees, and to their children and grandchildren. It bears witness to a profoundly important historical event that is little known by the rest of the world. These survivors have been waiting decades to tell their stories, which are shocking and harrowing, but also inspiring. See their faces. Listen to their voices. Some are still with us, those who remain.





Clary Estes was born and raised in Kentucky and is currently living internationally and working on a variety of photography projects in Japan, China and Moldova. After she graduated with a Masters Degree in New Media Photojournalism from the Corcoran College of Art and Design in 2013 she moved to Japan as an Ishibashi Zaidan Photography Research Fellow with Nagoya University for two years. She is now living and working in rural Moldova with the Peace Corps. As a storyteller, Estes’ interests lie in long-term documentary projects focused on underserved, obscure communities. Her work does not merely document a story straight on; rather, it analyzes and re-analyzes the story over the course of months and years to show the dynamic and complex nature of the stories we live.

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Clary Estes

4 Responses to “Clary Estes – Those Who Remain”

  • I find this one very interesting beyond the merits of the particular essay. As many of you no doubt know, Ms. Estes recently published a manifesto type piece of writing about the “Colonialism” of photojournalism that took particular aim at what she perceives as the Magnum influence on the craft.

    This, I think, is the nut graph:

    “If the vast majority of work that is being done is overwhelmingly male, western and of a privileged class, how does that affect our ability to tell stories? Well, I think it does a few things; at the very least it creates a vocabulary of image making that is more restricted. We see what is considered a ‘successful’ photograph or series and that becomes what we emulate and thus the diversity of image creation is stagnated, as well as defined by a white, male western eye. But this isn’t the big issue at hand; the reason the colonialism of photojournalism needs to be combated is because, at it’s very worst, it erodes the foundational ethics and values of photojournalism itself. When the only legitimate voice is a western voice the humanity of people we take photos of is subjugated. Indeed, we take the photograph, giving nothing in return, and de-legitimizing the voices of the very people we are claiming to “bare witness to.”

    So does this essay here on burn increase the diversity of image creation through a female, western feminist eye? If so, how so? Are photographers taking something from the subjects while giving them nothing in return, and simultaneously de-legitimizing their voices?

    Although “Those Who Remain” doesn’t ape, or aspire to achieve the big time male photojournalist style the reaps paying jobs and prizes, and that Ms. Estes associates with Magnum; I’m not quite seeing how it represents any kind of female or non-western privileged western white male aesthetic. A lot of work I see takes a similar approach, much of mine included. I always suspect the complaints about Magnum and the prize-a-palooza culture are akin to Cure fans complaining about the Garth Brooks’s and Beyonceé’s winning the Grammies. Some visions are more popular than others in every profession.

    And regarding all the statistics about representation in the ranks by race and gender, I think Ms. Estes may be falling into the same trap of worshiping Magnum and the other pillars of the white, western, male photojournalism hegemony she criticizes. In my personal experience, which includes a few top level folk and a lot of more mid-level professionals, the idea that getting more women and minorities into the profession is pretty much a universal belief. And although Magnum and VII may have their statistical issues, I see powerful women photo editors at places like the NYT, Washington Post and TNR, as well as scores who are art directors hiring photographers for mid level magazines and newspapers. So the picture is not as bleak as Ms. Estes paints.

    And when I am in Africa, I note that Africans are producing just about all the newspapers and magazines in their countries. I note the same thing in South America, Mexico, and Arab countries, and presume it’s true in Asia and pretty much anywhere else. I fear that looking at Magnum and other American and European journalistic institutions and thinking “that’s all that matters in the world” is its own form of colonialist mentality.

    And of course the Datta-pocolypse comes up and Ms. Estes writes:

    “The fact of the matter is that there is a common theme with the subjects of each of these photo stories; we are looking at subjugated persons in a far away land who are powerless within their own lives. And so the ethics question becomes, ‘In what way is photojournalistic storytelling helping these people.’ I am a firm believer in the fact that we are people before we are photojournalists. There is a point in every story to put the fucking camera down and start being a human.”

    I think that’s very well said, and I couldn’t agree more.

    And although I bring up counterpoints, I like the article and appreciate the depth to which she thinks about these things.

    How all that relates to her own work? Interesting, but ultimately doesn’t matter. I like the work for its expanded visual perspectives, the quality of the writing, and how the two work together.

  • I really like the way the old and new photos are mixed up. Thoughtful stuff.

  • MW

    just for the record, Magnum’s last 3 nominees were from Iran (female), Russia (female), India (male)…Yes Magnum was started in France (birthplace of photography) and New York….i doubt we should be somehow punished for it…..the doors of Magnum have been more than open to all religions, cultures and is certainly NOT male oriented…we are scouring the globe constantly for women photographers….black photographers…Chinese photographers etc etc….we must of course START with talented AND in the for the long haul…Magnum is not a contest to win….

    the two oldest and most tired discussions in the biz are: (1) is photojournalism dead? (2) why fewer women photographers?….every few years some new writer brings it all up again as if it had never been thought about…..of course that is normal…my best students are almost always women…great stories and then many of them just disappear from the scene..last two winners of EPF were women….i have no idea why many disappear…..when i was in university the big topic was is photoJ dead? ha ha …so funny…..

    by the way,the women i know who have made a mark, Mary Ellen Mark, Susan Meiselas, Jodi Cobb, Donna Ferrato, Bieke Deporter etc etc have all gotten in this discussion but AFTER they all had done some significant work…while working , they did not talk or write…..criticism is more accepted IF the person doing the critique has something to lay on the table….

    Magnum celebrates it’s 70th anniversary in two weeks hosted by the Museum of Modern Art….blast us to hell if you want, but Magnum did make a mark…

  • David Alan Harvey

    If you had actually read my comment, you would have noted that it was Clary Estes who made that critique of Magnum in the article of hers I linked to. Those pull quotes are hers, not me.

    I actually defended you all against the points she makes. Really, it’s right there in the text. You can read it.

    Seems you need to work on your reading comprehension skills.

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