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Presenting the first copy of the portrait to the president.

The Presidential Portrait; Looking Back

Back in August 2010 I shot the official portrait for the president of Suriname. You can read all about it in a previous blog post titled “Photoshoot: President D. D. Bouterse of Suriname”. I used to be proud of this, but not so much anymore.

To be sure, it’s usually an honor for any photographer to be chosen to shoot the official portrait of the president of a country. Apart from that it’s also a validation of your technical skills and abilities, as generally people won’t hire a photographer for such an important job if they’re not perceived to be qualified for it. So in that regard, I’m still proud to have been considered an option and ultimately to have received the job based on my skills alone. I’m also still proud of the final result based on my technical and artistic abilities at that time.

But when it comes to the subject of the photograph — the president of Suriname  — I’m not proud anymore of my work. I compare my taking the official portrait of the president with a slave on a plantation who gets asked to take a photo of his master. It’s difficult to be proud of that, especially if you’re fully aware of your situation, and have enough self-respect. And when I mention “the president of Suriname” I mean the institution of presidency, and not the person Bouterse. There’s a big difference between those two. In fact, I have absolutely nothing (personal or otherwise) against the person Bouterse. It’s the institution of presidency that I have a problem with.

Those who know me well, will be able to tell you that during discussions on the many “crimes” that the person Bouterse is often blamed for, I’m often one of the very few, if not the only one, who will offer a more balanced view on him, so much so that one might even think that I’m defending him or choosing his side. This has been the case ever since I was around 22 years old. The fact of the matter is that for anyone who wants to be really honest and who values the truth, things aren’t always as simple and superficial as most people would have you believe. For example, when it comes to the “december murders” there’s a lot of evidence pointing to the fact that there was a lot more going on than people would have you believe. I have a post with the details and my research on my blog — click here for that.

In that regard, apart from my skills, I think I was the best choice to take the official portrait of Bouterse as president of Suriname. All other photographers, like most people in Suriname, remain fucking hypocrites and politically correct in public when it comes to Bouterse. Not only that, but they also behave pretty much like barbarians all the time, reacting with blind hatred and tons of (often willful) ignorance, instead of taking the time to do some research and to try to discover and understand the root causes that led to the various incidents taking place in the (recent) past. It’s no wonder that we fail to learn and consequently stay in the same shit year after year. Like Einstein said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results — which sadly is what most people are still doing.

With that in mind, I believe that my being chosen as the photographer was destined by the universe — faith, if you will, like so many other things in my life. Because not long after that photoshoot, I would enter a period in my life — in 2011, when I turned 33 years old 😉 — where I experienced an incredible surge in enlightenment and growth. It was then that I would eventually learn — among many other things — exactly what a president of a country really is, and in what kind of system we currently live in everywhere around the world. And I’m also the only one in Suriname with the courage to admit all of the above and publicly talk about it too.

I won’t go into too much details on that here for now though; instead I’ll include a translation of an article that was published on Starnieuws (PDF) a few months ago, that explains my thoughts on this in more details. Follow the links in the translation below, and I’m sure that at the end of it, you’ll understand.

For example, you’ll understand why, as I explain in my post on Statism, the worst of the psychopaths in society will always end up being in power. Just look at the candidates currently running for president in the USA (Trump and Clinton — two of the biggest psychopaths on the planet, apart from Israhell, where the concentration of big psychopaths currently appears to be the highest).

If you’re a person that might be considered in the future to work for any government, on whatever project, I hope this information may find you in a timely manner and prevent you from making one of the biggest mistakes of your life.

Here’s the Starnieuws article:

Photographer Donk: Regrets Shooting Presidential Portrait
(Starnieuws, May 12, 2016)

In 2010 photographer Karel Donk shoots the official portrait of president Desi Bouterse. Five years later — in November 2015 — he supports activist Curtis Hofwijks in his campaign ‘We Zijn Moe’ [We’re tired] against the policies of the government led by Bouterse. Donk photographs the protests and helps with managing the Facebook page of the group. “It is certainly ironic and in contrast with the past, but I experience it as growth,” Donk tells Starnieuws.

After 2010 Donk does a lot of self-study and learns about the “anti-social system that we currently live.” With the knowledge gained, Donk finds that people in Suriname remained dependent and slaves. “When I realized this well enough, I regretted making the official portrait of the president. I actually took a picture of the leader of the organization that is systematically oppressing me and everyone else in society.” Donk is not proud of this and says that he’ll never work for any government ever again.

In the current anti-social system presidents stand at the head of a criminal and terrorist organization. He argues that slavery was never abolished. There’s only been a transition. “And the president is the person who’s the leader within the new system of slavery, better known as ‘Statism’.” He compares the president and the entire government to the ‘house negroes’ that Malcolm X talked about in the past. Donk says that he has nothing personal against the person Bouterse. If he needs a photo of himself, Donk will shoot it for him. “As a human being I respect his right to life.”

Not happy to be president
Donk looks back to August 20, 2010. The president poses in front of his camera. For a more relaxed, better pose and facial expression, he asks “Mr. President, can I now get a smile from you; you’re glad to be the president.” The president gently replies, “Glad? I’m not glad at all to be the president.” All other people who’re present laugh. The president also laughs, and Donk takes the picture. “But the president’s answer surprised me though, and has always kept me thinking. Much later I realized that at that moment he was most likely telling the truth.” Donk thinks that Bouterse isn’t president because he really wants to, but because the circumstances in which he finds himself leave him little choice. Like other leaders in the past. “I think that in a better society — one that’s not hostile towards him, he would’ve liked to spend his time better, and that he would be experienced more positively.”

In Donk’s vision the anti-social system forces the leadership to go along with the evil system. Those who’re honest and strong, step out of the system or are kicked out. Donk says that politicians [from political party] DOE now bend over backwards to remain consistent. “And still they don’t succeed. Despite all their good goals and intentions, they have, like all politicians, become hypocrites.” That’s why he thinks that it’s not the people that are the problem, but the system, and he refers to his blog for the details. “We need to eliminate this system as soon as possible if we want to bring sustainable improvements for all of us.”

Truthful photoshoot
The photographer thinks that Hofwijks is brave, who as an individual has launched a protest against the government’s policies. He supports this action by photographing it as truthful as possible. After that he publishes the photos on social media for more publicity. For example, in the photo report for December 3, 2015, there’s not only a photo of the president shaking Hofwijk’s hand, but also a photo of the president being embraced by a passing woman (part of the people), while Hofwijks looks on with a sign ‘Volksmisleider’ [misleader of the people] in hand. “Many people in Suriname see Bouterse as a (mostly) evil man and frequently like to blame him for everything, but the reality is not so simple and superficial, and it clearly shows in that picture.”

The support for Hofwijks goes one step further. The photographer tries to ensure that the activist and all other young people who support him, aren’t exploited by politicians. Donk shares his knowledge and ideas with them, hoping that they remain wary of potential abuse by politicians. This in an effort to prevent that the activists “lapse into making the same mistakes again by constantly holding on to the same system that got us into the current crisis in the first place.”

To be honest, I’m still surprised that the above article appeared in the local media, given the highly controversial things that I said during the interview with me, which were published verbatim (you’ll need to read the Dutch version linked above to really appreciate this; some things can’t be translated well enough). Interestingly, a day before the above article was published, I had accidentally sent an email to myself. That email arrived in my inbox at 4:44pm. If you know what 444 means, you’ll realize the significance. 😉


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