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I realise things have been drab and monochromatic (and quite frankly depressing) on Prison Photography recently. My solution was to put up some prison beauty pageant images from Russia I found on a Russian website via BoingBoing.

I reckoned they’d stand in nice contrast to Jane Evelyn Atwood’s bleak images of the womens penal colony, Perm, Russia by directly testing Atwood’s view and undermining our preconceptions oncemore.

The photographs could also provide some much needed colour without much need for commentary, right? Wrong. The comments on BoingBoing suggest that not all, if any, are from Russian womens’ prisons.

Comparison with Fabio Cuttica’s work here and here holds up this assertion. Compare the two images below:

PHOTOGRAPH CLAIMING TO BE FROM RUSSIAN PRISON. Source: http://www.webpark.ru/comment/52940

PHOTOGRAPH CLAIMING TO BE FROM RUSSIAN PRISON. Source: http://www.webpark.ru/comment/52940

PHOTOGRAPH KNOWN TO BE FROM BOLIVIA. Credit: Fabio Cuttica. Source: http://www.nerve.com/dispatches/prisonpageant/

PHOTOGRAPH KNOWN TO BE FROM COLOMBIA. Credit: Fabio Cuttica. Source: http://www.nerve.com/dispatches/prisonpageant/

I’d proffer that seven of the fifteen images in the original (Russian) web posting are from the same pageant Cuttica photographed in Columbia.

The image at the top and the three below I would guess are from Russia, but who can be sure if they are even from inside a prison?

I am left wondering how often I’ve read a caption or commentary ON ANY PHOTOGRAPH – and taken it as truth. Very often, I bet. Which leads me to wonder how often we’re dangerously misled by images. Who knows?

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I suppose this only matters if you care if the images came from within a prison. Amputated from a true story, these images aren’t a malicious misrepresentation but probably a product of absent research. Although one wonders under what circumstances images from separate continents were sourced and paired.

So, beware the caption! Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin have said “A photograph that relies on its caption to create meaning is impotent.” The reverse position holds sway too. Mustn’t captions be absolutely necessary at times to stave of the wild presumptions viewers bring to imagery?

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