George Selley

George Selley. A Study of Assassination

In 1997, as part of the freedom of information act, a document was released by the CIA entitled “A Study of Assassination.” The manual was released as part of a collection of Central Intelligence Agency files relating to the 1954 Guatemalan Destabilization Programme. The programme aimed to overthrow the newly democratically elected leader of Guatemala, Colonel Jacobo Arbenz Guzman. The programme was lobbied for by the US Global Corporation, The United Fruit Company. United Fruit owned one fifth of the entire country, and almost solely controlled the worlds sale of bananas at the time. The company pressured the CIA to intervene in Guatemala and overthrow Arbenz, and instil in his place a dictator who was sympathetic to the companies un-ethical actions. In June 1954, an offensive consisting of CIA trained mercenaries and CIA aerial support overthrew Arbenz, and instilled exiled military dictator Carlos Castillos Armas as leader. The “Assassination Manual” is believed to have been created in order to “educate” the mercenaries in the “act of killing”.

Meanwhile, in Europe and the US, United Fruit continued to mould the public perception of the banana as a healthy, fun loving and innocent fruit, through mass advertisement, music, and popular culture. This project is concerned with re-purposing the manual using found imagery. By combining pages of the document with archival press images of the time; united fruit advertisement campaigns; and cold war propaganda, the meaning of the documents is transformed. Connotations commonly associated with the banana of humour, sex, liberation and the American Dream are juxtaposed with its sinister history of oppression, capitalist imperialism and genocide – challenging our conceptions of the bananas symbolism. The document itself represents the bureaucracy of war, the everyday processes of a global intelligence agency – the banality of power.

George Selley (1993) is a London based photographer and filmmaker. George currently teaches photography at Fine Arts College, in Camden, while studying for his MA in Photojournalism & Documentary Photography at the London College of Communication. Having begun his further education in Anthropology, George’s work continues to be heavily researched based, but with conceptual elements often present. His work has been published in Dazed, Huck, The British Journal of Photography, and Fisheye Magazine.

This year George received the Paris Photo Carte Blanche Student Award 2017. He was also a finalist in the Felix Schoeller Best Emerging Photographer Award 2017. He has been exhibited at the Felix Nussbaum Museum of Cultural History, Germany; The Grand Palais at Paris Photo 2017; the Fondazione Marangoni Gallery in Florence, Italy, the Ostrołęka Festival of Photography, in Poland, Odesa Photo Festival, Ukraine and the Green Rooms Gallery in London. His 2015 documentary Study Drugs was selected and screened at the 2015 American Public Health Association Film Festival, in Chicago. George is a co-founder of the Carte Blanche Collective, and a member of Inpro Photography Collective.