ESMA, Buenos Aires, Argentina © Pete Brook

You may have noticed that I switched out the banner image for Prison Photography. I didn’t want to say goodbye without mentioning again the photograph’s origin.

The original banner was a non-descriptive crop, abstracting the top of a stairwell.

Exterior stairwell, ESMA, Buenos Aires, Argentina. © Pete Brook


The exterior stairwell led to the basement of the Naval School of Mechanics in Buenos Aires (Escuela de Mecánica de la Armada). In Argentina it is commonly known by its abbreviation ESMA.

ESMA, particularly its basement, was the main site of illegal detention and torture during the Dirty War (1976 to 1983). The Dirty War was a state-sponsored program of violence against Argentine citizenry carried out primarily by Jorge Rafael Videla‘s military government. There were hundreds more sites like it across the country. There were scores of illegal detention sites in Buenos Aires alone.

ESMA is now a museum and memorial.


The horrors of the Dirty War are still fresh in the collective memory and, as such, problems exist with its interpretation in contemporary Argentine society. The surveillance and by-night kidnappings affected every Argentine’s life. 30,000 persons were ‘disappeared’; they are known as the Desaparecidos.

Photomontage of Desaparecidos, Memory Museum, Cordoba, Argentina © Pete Brook


I am aware of a handful of photographers who have made central to their work the prisons and politics of the Dirty War.

I should like to write and post about these photographers in the coming months.


For more info on the Desaparecidos; more on the establishment of the museum/memorial; more on the continuing peace & justice efforts; and more on the national archives.

Sin Olvido is a MUST VISIT. It is a very poignant archive of photographs and descriptions of 3,400 victims from the Dirty War.