In 2010, photographer Patrick Gilliéron Lopreno visited three Swiss prisons and created the series Puzzle Carceral. Yesterday, I featured a select edit from Puzzle Carceral.
During his year spent on the project, Patrick doubled down on the photo-interventions with a prison photo workshop. Once a week, for two months, he met with prisoners of La Brenaz prison in Geneva. Some of the images are simple point-and-shoot portraits; some are documents of living conditions; others such as the image of an Islamic prayer-mat or the image of a low-lit corridor are more meditative.
I asked Patrick some questions about the experience and he provided a selection of prisoner-made images from the workshop.
Q & A
A workshop is very different to a single photographer, you, making images. What made you decide to put cameras in the hands of prisoners? What were your aims?
The idea was to produce a report with the prisoners on their conditions of detention. What mattered to me was their view of their confinement.
What did they want to do or convey with their photography?
For them the workshop was primarily a time of separation from their prison life. I did not claim to provide them with training and that was clear from the outset. Some men realised that they were able to make beautiful images and for once they made something others could compliment; they became creative.
What negotiations did you go through to conduct the workshop?
The social worker of the prison has helped me tremendously. She brought me into contact with inmates who wanted to participate in this workshop. I never asked for money from the prison for my class because I did not want to be paid. I wanted to stay as independent as possible and retain complete control.
Is a camera not a security hazard inside of a prison?
A camera in prison is never welcome – not for the prison [administration] or for the prisoners. I was not there to make pictures for the inmates’ files. I always asked each prisoner’s permission to use his image.
What stood out about the prisoners work? Any photographs that surprised you?
I was dazzled by the artistic and poetic qualities of their pictures. The best photos were developed and printed on large sheets and then exhibited in the prison.