A Russian photographer has been fined after spelling out the word “freedom” during a human rights photo shoot.
Emmie America was detained together with 25 others on 5 February.
Shot in a park in Moscow, America’s photo captured a crowd dressed in military uniforms guarding the Russian word “svoboda”, or “freedom” written in the snow. Police arrived on the set as participants were due to leave and began to detain the models, who were charged with “participating in the demonstration” and fined 10,000 roubles (or £100).
America herself received a fine of 20,000 roubles (or £200) for “organising a protest”, which police linked to jailed opposition activist Alexey Navalny.
The photographer meanwhile, says she was never asked about her political views, and that the arrest is “absurd”. “My project is first and foremost an art piece, which in my mind is something inherently societal and political,” America told The Calvert Journal.
“Of course [the art project] is largely a commentary on the current climate in Russia — but by current, I do not mean the past few weeks, but rather the past few years. Russia is becoming a military state. Right now, it seems like the authorities are doing all they can to scare people off, to keep them quiet. But in fact it appears like they are the ones who are scared, since they are spending so much time on a group of peaceful artists.”
America also says that she was denied food, drink, and access to a lawyer for the ten hours she was detained by the police.
“The authorities seem to see [Navalny’s] name everywhere, even where it’s not the case at all,” she says. “My project is about freedom for all, not just one leader.”
The photographer’s arrest is part of an ongoing crackdown against one of the largest waves of protests to sweep Russia in several years, which has seen artists such as Pussy Riot’s Masha Alekhina, and rapper Oxxxymiron detained. Mass demonstrations began on 23 January after opposition leader Alexey Navalny was arrested as he returned to Moscow from Berlin. He had previously spent time in Germany after being poisoned with a nerve agent, an attack which the former presidential candidate has linked to Russian intelligence services.