Lee Grant – Photography Blog

Posts Tagged ‘alexander machonochie centre

Godforsaken: Photography, prisons and incarceration

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After  recently photographing the now empty Belconnen Remand Centre as part of my Belco Pride series, I came across a rather interesting blog called Prison Photography: the practice of photography in sites of incarceration when doing some further research into the culture of incarceration.  I’ve been wanting to photograph in Belco Remand for a while now but never had any luck. Now that they’ve shut down and moved their tenants to the new Alexander Maconochie Centre, I was able to get a pretty good tour of the place thanks to an open day… billed, believe it or not, as a family event. And the families were out in force – kinda weird and I dare say a bit of a joke for the parents showing their kids where home could be if they were naughty (my kids intuitively refused to come!). Seemed a strange PR excercise – if indeed that’s what it was – as it really reinforced how appalling conditions can be in such a place. Perhaps the popularity of the occasion simply boiled down to a case of schadenfreude, wanting to see how law-breakers can live alongside our shopping malls, schools and suburban homes. In any case, I was suitably dismayed and (I admit) aesthetically delighted with the original interiors and fittings.

Somewhat disturbingly, visitors were greeted with the following German quote “Arbeit Macht Frei” (which is a slogan known for being placed at the entrances of a number of Nazi concentration camps during WWII. It translates roughly as “Work makes one free”).  “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” was also scrawled in English below it. Overall quite a surreal, confronting and sad experience.

Anyway, here are just a few pics from the sojourn:

belco_remand_3

belco_remand_1

belco_remand_2

belco_remand_4Belco Remand Centre, 2009 (Belco Pride Series)

Of course there is a long tradition of photographers telling stories about prisons and exploring the culture and brutality of incarceration. How they gain access is a mystery to me. Here are some images from just a few photographers who have made some jaw-dropping images in prisons. For more insightful ruminations on prison photography go check out Prison Photography:

CP_02James Nachtwey, Prisoner on the chain gang, Alabama 1994 (Crime and Punishment series)

mikhaelsubotzky305Mikhael Subotsky (Beaufort West series)

8Yana Payusova Eye of Faith, 2005 (Russian Prison series)

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