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Photographer Milcho Pipin went into the Central Penitentiary of the State of Paraná, in Curitiba, Brazil. It’s a fairly sizable prison with nearly 1,500 prisoners.”Despite frequent overcrowding problems and precarious infrastructural condition, this penitentiary is by no means the worst in Brazil,” says Pipin.

From within this tough institution, Pipin wanted primarily to “capture expressions of male and female prisoners and to understand and share their feelings,” he says.

In collaboration with Dr. Maurício Stegemann Dieter, a criminology specialist, Pipin produced the series Locked Up. Both answered a few short questions I had.

Scroll down for Q&A.

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Q & A

Prison Photography (PP): Why did you want to photograph in Central Penitentiary of the State of Paraná?

Milcho Pipin (MP): It all started because of my father. He was a police inspector of foreign crime / border control in Macedonia for 30 years. He went through a lot of cases. His sense of comprehensibility to all social classes inspired me to photograph in prison.

PP: What are attitudes toward prisons and prisoners in Brazil?

Dr. Maurício Stegemann Dieter (MSD): Hostile and cynical.

PP: What do Brazilians think of incarceration in the U.S.?

MSD: Except for some researchers (criminology and criminal law professors, mostly), they don’t have a clue.

PP: What did the staff think of you and your camera?

MP: As the director of the prison informed us, it had been over 40 years since media had access inside, it was pretty shocking to me. That’s why when we entered, the staff was not really sure who we were, how we got there and what was our purpose being inside with a photo equipment.

I explained that there was nothing to do with any political purpose and that it was an artistic project only  — to photograph the lives behind those concertina wires. Later, the staff mood changed and they were really helpful showing around the prison and introducing us to the prisoners.

PP: How long can babies stay with their mothers? Until what age?

MSD: From birth up to 6-months. After that, they meet daily for up to 4 hours.

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PP: Of the 1480 prisoners, how many are men and how many are women?

Maurício Dieter (MD): 1116 men and 364 women, each in a separate penitentiary.

PP: What did the prisoners think about your photography?

MP: The first day was the hardest. We had a short briefing with the prisoners about the project and I felt their lack of interest as they were not yet sure that we were not there for political purpose.

I explained [to a large group] that the only thing I wanted to do was to take their portraits as they expressed their feelings, and then to show the outside world. Most of them left the briefing, just 7 or so stayed.

I showed my print portfolio to those who stayed and I heard one prisoner saying: “Oh good, ok, let’s do this!” As I started photographing one by one, they spread the news and the interest to have their photo taken became viral in the next days. Almost all of them were friendly with us, with a few exceptions.

PP: Did the prisoners see your photos and/or receive prints?

MP: They saw the photos on the camera display a few moments afterwards. I gave them my website link, so the family could see them online. I did promise prints though, and for sure they will soon receive them. There are still a lot of photos in a finalizing phase so I can start printing and delivering them with pleasure to all the prisoners that collaborated in this project.

PP: Milcho, how do you hope your photographs might alter attitudes?

MP: Hmm, through my photographs I hope people will be able to visualize, feel and understand that we are all at the risk of committing a crime, purposely or not, at any moment of our lives, and of being convicted and facing a sentence. That’s why we should appreciate our freedom, because it’s just one of those big things we usually don’t appreciate until we lose it.

We never know, our future is a dice.

FIN

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BIOGRAPHY

Milcho Pipin was born in Bitola, Macedonia. Based in Curitiba, Brazil, Pipin started photography in 2001 as he journeyed across five continents. He focuses on editorial, commercial, documentary and fine art photography. Pipin is founder and creative director of VRV, international creative agency.

All images: Milcho Pipin, and used with permission. Use, manipulate or alteration of any photo without written permission of Milcho Pipin is prohibited.

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Brazil’s Polinters

This past weekend, I met several staff members from the Open Society Institute’s Documentary Photography Project. Wyatt Gallery’s Tent Life: Haiti, exhibited at Photoville, is work supported by the Documentary Photography Project.

“The photographs are testament to the strength and dignity of the Haitian community after the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake,” writes Amy Yenkin, director of the Documentary Photography Project

OSI also partly-funded the Magnum Foundation’s work Bruce Gilden’s No Place Like Home: Foreclosures in America and Sim Chi Yin’s Rat Tribe in an overarching initiative exploring of the idea of ‘Home.’ Photoville details here.

I’ll talk more about Photoville and those connections later, but here I want to bring your attention to OSI’s initiative that goes beyond photography specifically. OSI is running the Global Campaign for Pretrial Justice.

“Every year some 10 million people around the world spend time locked up in prison cells and detention centers while they await a court appearance. Many will end up spending months or even years behind bars without ever seeing a judge,” reports OSI.

Pretrial detention is something I’ve concerned myself with before, for example in promoting Nathalie Mohadjer’s photography.

OSI has produced two reports: “The Socioeconomic Impact of Pretrial Detention” and “Pretrial Detention and Torture: Why Pretrial Detainees Face the Greatest Risk,” both argue a reduction in excessive use of pretrial incarceration and to save costs to governments and communities.

In conjunction with the reports, OSI has produced four videos about those who’ve suffered loss of liberty or loss of family in unaccountable systems. The photos are by Ed Kashi. The audio by Rob Rosenthal. (Ed Kashi also made the bio pics for the Documentary Photography Project staff!)

I was surprised by the incredibly low Youtube viewing numbers – from as low as 60 to less than 300. I hope this is due only to the fact that the videos have been embedded on sites and have in fact been viewed many more times in the last month than just the few hundred reported on the individual Youtube pages.

OSI is also a massive (much larger) foundation than I ever knew. 400+ employees in New York and more than 2,000 worldwide. It produces campaigns at such a rate that I expect many get lost in the relentless roll out. Here, I hope I can do my bit; I encourage you to watch these dispatches.

Vinthenga’s Story

Benson’s Story

Deize & Indaiá Stories

Follow OSI’s program about pretrial justice on Twitter: @PretrialJustice

The Global Post has just launched ENCARCELACION an investigative series about the correctional systems of Latin America that “have gone horribly wrong.”

We’ve seen the headlines of jailbreaks in Mexico, riots in Venezuelan prisons, and fires in Honduran jails, but often these stories seems a world away. The politics underpinning the strife in Latin American prisons is not my area of expertise but the importance of the stories is undeniable. It is interesting that the Global Post has used photography as an anchor to the front page.

After digging down into ENCARCELACION‘s trove of info, you may want to follow links to Prison Photography‘s irregular coverage of various aspects of life in Latin American prisons:

Gary KnightJoao PinaJackie Dewe MatthewsValerio BispuriPedro LoboVance Jacobs and Columbian prisonerstourist photography in Bolivian prisonsprison tattoos (some from Central America)Kate Orlinksky’s portraits of Mexican female prisoners Fabio Cuttica at a Columbian prison beauty pageantPatricia Aridjis in Mexico – even Cornell Capa was in Latin American prisons at one time.

– – – – –

Thanks to Theo Stroomer for the heads up.

The funeral of Horacio Bau a montonero militant from Trelew in the Argentine patagonia. He disappeared in La Plata in November 1977. His remains were found and buried nearly 30 years after. © João Pina

About this time last year, LENS blog featured João Pina’s ongoing project Operation Condor (since renamed Shadow of the Condor). Daniel J. Wakin wrote, “Operation Condor was a collusion among right-wing dictators in Latin America during the 1970s to eliminate their leftist opponents. The countries involved were Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia.”

João Pina has broken up those six countires into three segments and is currently raising funds via Emphas.is to complete the first focusing on Brazil.

Pina has already interviewed victims and families in Brazil:

In Recife in northeastern Brazil I interviewed and photographed Elzita Santa Cruz, a mother of ten who is now 97 years old. In 1964, when Brazil’s military dictatorship began, several of her children were arrested for political reasons on different occasions. In 1974, one of them, her son Fernando, became Brazil’s first politically “disappeared” person. Since then, Elzita has been demanding that the Brazilian authorities open their archives and explain what happened to Fernando and the other victims of the twenty-one-year dictatorship.

Having worked across South America for six years already, Pina will, as he intends, be able to create a “visual memory”, but as for making evidence for “use by a number of human rights organizations which are still trying to bring those responsible for Operation Condor’s repression to justice,” well, that’s an ambitious goal. Nevertheless, as a documentary project the subject is ranging and imperative. Good luck to him. I’ve stumped up some cash, so should you.

See the Emphas.is project page for Shadow of the Condor and see Pina’s video pitch.

Jackie Dewe Mathews‘ series Trafficantes, is time spent with women imprisoned for drug smuggling in Brazils’ Sao Paolo Capital Penitentiary for Women. Pretty much without exception, each woman made bad choices, but those were bad choices born of tough lives, low self-esteem and sometimes addiction.

The women come from all over the globe. Dewe Mathews opens the essay with this caption: “Sao Paulo Capital Penitentiary for Women, where women from over 30 countries are held. The largest numbers come from South Africa, then South America, followed by former Portuguese colonies in Africa such as Angola, Cape Verde and Mozambique, as well as Europe, especially, Spain and Portugal and Asia, particularly Thailand and the Philippines.”

Throughout, Dewe Mathews makes efficient use of text-captioning to tell these womens circumstances. Some of the portraits are first class; by first class I mean laden with emotion and character. Other photos can be flat, but the series as a whole is a illuminating look at a hidden world.

Mathews appeared on Verve today, providing the following bio:

Jackie Dewe Mathews (b.1978, England) worked in the film industry as a freelance camera assistant on feature films and commercials. Her continued interest in cinematography has informed her photography practice which she was able to develop during an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at the London College of Communication in 2007. In 2008 she was awarded the Joan Wakelin bursary for a social documentary project from the Guardian newspaper and the Royal Photographic Society. In 2009 she was selected by the Magenta Foundation for emerging photographers. In 2010 she was a runner up in the Ojodepez and Julia Margret Cameron awards.

More in the Global Post

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Thanks to Bob Gumpert for the tip.

Dewe Mathews’ work should be compared with Chan Chao‘s intimate portraiture.

Carandiru, Sao Paulo, SP, Brazil – 2003 © Pedro Lobo

Four South American penitentiaries feature in Pedro Lobo‘s series Espacos Aprisionados/ Imprisoned Spaces; Itaguy, Bon Pastor and Bela Vista prisons in Medellin, Columbia and the infamous Brazilian prison Carandiru in Sao Paulo.

Pedro Lobo has posted an edit of prison images on his website (27 images). A larger selection can be found at Lobo’s Photoshelter gallery (86 images). Selected works are also posted to Lightstalkers (13 of 30).

I think his images from Carandiru – which he shot shortly after its 2002 closure and demolition – are the most cohesive as a group, and it is a selection of those I include here.

Carandiru, Sao Paulo, SP, Brazil – 2003 © Pedro Lobo

Lobo adopts a common approach to prison interiors as he does to the vernacular architecture of slums and to adapted religious spaces. Lobo is interested in the strain between the inhabitants control over the space, and the control of the space over its inhabitant. Read in the details, it is – strangely – a very compelling tension.

Lobo: Brazilian inmates call their cells “barracos” (barracks, tents, shacks) the same word used for their houses in the “favelas”, where most of them come from. As in my previous work, I tried to show their efforts to make their living quarters as dignified as their meager resources allowed for.

In this prison, inmates were allowed intimate visits twice a month and made all efforts to clean and decorate their cells prior to these encounters. The art work on walls and doors are reflections of order and chaos – creativity in adversity – and revealing of their desire for freedom, material residues of the only allowed forms of self-expression. It is sad to know that all vanished when the buildings were demolished.

These images reflect the responsibility with which I use my work. They are not about crime, or criminals, poverty, or misery, but about human beings who found, or placed, themselves in extremely adverse situations and decided not to give up the struggle for a dignified existence. (Source)

Carandiru, Sao Paulo, SP, Brazil – 2003 © Pedro Lobo

In some cases the interiors are bare and contemplative; images 2 and 3 could be the cells of religious devotees. In other cases (image 1) the intrigue is in the particulars. Look closer. What’s behind the curtain?

Especially because Carandiru no longer stands (it has, like so many former prisons, become a museum) Lobo’s pictures should be treasured. Don’t be surprised if these images reemerge, possibly in the form of a book, and probably tied into his wider body of work.

PEDRO LOBO

Pedro Lobo (Rio de Janeiro, 1954) is a Brazilian photographer currently living in Portugal.

He has exhibited his work in Brazil, Denmark, Germany, Colombia and in the United States. He has photographed slums, favelas and prisons. His images of  known as Carandiru (later demolished) in Sao Paulo were shown in the exhibition “Imprisoned spaces/Espaços aprisionados” at Blue Sky Gallery, in Portland, Oregon, in 2005.

His first one-man show in Portugal was Favelas: Architecture of Survival at Museu Municipal Prof. Joaquim Vermelho in Estremoz.

He has taken part in other exhibitions such as REtalhar2007 in Centro Cultural do Banco do Brasil in Rio de Janeiro and “Via BR 040 – Serra Cerrado”, with Miguel Rio Branco, Elder Rocha, etc in Plataforma Contemporânea of the Museu Imperial of Petropolis, in 2004 and 2005.

Pedro Lobo, a Fulbright Scholar, studied photography at the school of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts with Elaine O’Neil and Bill Burke and at New York’s International Center of Photography (ICP). From 1978 to 1985 he worked for the Brazilian Landmark Commission (Fundação Pró-Memória) as a photographer and researcher. In 2008, he was awarded the first prize at Tops Festival in China.

MARTIN BATALLES REPRESENTING URUGUAY

LIVIA CORONA REPRESENTING MEXICO

MARCOS LOPEZ REPRESENTING ARGENTINA

Friend of Prison Photography, Emiliano Granado, likes football as much as he rocks at photography.

We pooled our knowledge to pair each country competing in South Africa with a photographer of the same nationality.

GROUP A

FRA France  – JR
MEX Mexico – Livia Corona
RSA South Africa – Mikhael Subotzky
URU Uruguay – Martín Batallés

GROUP B

ARG Argentina – Marcos Lopez
GRE Greece – George Georgiou (Born in London to Greek Cypriot parent)
KOR South Korea – Ye Rin Mok
NGA Nigeria – George Osodi

GROUP C

ALG Algeria – Christian Poveda
ENG England – Stephen Gill
SVN Slovenia – Klavdij Sluban (French of Slovenian origin … I know, I know, but you try to find a Slovenia born photographer!)
USA United States – Bruce Davison

GROUP D

AUS Australia – Stephen Dupont
GER Germany – August Sander
GHA Ghana – Philip Kwame Apagya
SRB Serbia – Boogie

GROUP E

CMR Cameroon – Barthélémy Toguo
DEN Denmark – Henrik Knudsen
JPN Japan – Araki
NED Netherlands – Rineke Dijkstra

GROUP F

ITA Italy – Massimo Vitali
NZL New Zealand – Robin Morrison
PAR Paraguay – ?????
SVK Slovakia – Martin Kollar

GROUP G

BRA Brazil – Sebastiao Selgado
CIV Ivory Coast – Ananias Leki Dago
PRK North Korea – Tomas van Houtryve (it was difficult to find a North Korean photographer)
POR Portugal – Joao Pina

GROUP H

CHI Chile – Sergio Larrain
HON Honduras – Daniel Handal
ESP Spain – Alberto García Alix
SUI Switzerland – Jules Spinatsch

Emiliano has been posting images from each of the photographers and doubled up on a few nations where the talent pool is teeming. You can see them all over on his Tumblr account, A PILE OF GEMS

NOTES

* Don’t even begin arguing about who should represent the USA. It is a never-ending debate.

* I’ll be honest, finding photographers for the African nations was tricky, even for a web-search-dork like myself. But then we knew about the shortcomings of distribution and promotion within the industry, didn’t we?

* For Chile, we had to look to the past legend Larrain. I’ll be grateful if someone suggest a living practitioner.

* North Korean photographer, by name, anyone? We had to fall back on van Houtryve because he got inside the DPR.

* Rineke Dijkstra was one of approximately 4 thousand-trillion dutch photographers who are everywhere.

* Araki was the easy choice. Ill admit – I know next to nothing about Japanese photography (Marc, help?)

* I wanted a few more political photographers in there, while Emiliano goes for arty stuff. I think we found a nice balance overall.

* And, SERIOUSLY, name me a Paraguayan photographer! PLEASE.

AUGUST SANDER REPRESENTING GERMANY

JULES SPINATSCH REPRESENTING SWITZERLAND

PHILIP KWAME APAGYA REPRESENTING GHANA

I was first aware of João de Carvalho Pina‘s work a couple of years ago when Jim pointed to Pina’s photographic homage to the political prisoners of Portugal (1926-1974). Two of Pina’s grandparents were imprisoned by the Portuguese regime.

Just as that terror ended in Europe, another began across six countries in South America. Pina’s project Operation Condor has just featured on the New York Times’ Lens blog, for which Daniel J. Wakin explains:

Operation Condor was a collusion among right-wing dictators in Latin America during the 1970s to eliminate their leftist opponents. The countries involved were Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia.”

More from the NY Times on the sites of detention:

Mr. Pina said he was struck by how ordinary the locations were — garages, a sports stadium, offices. “Most of them are places that can be in the corner of our houses,” he said. “They’re very normal places”

Very important work, not least the portraits of survivors. Pina’s goal is to create a visual memory of the era working against a relative dearth of historical documentation, “to show people that this actually happened. There are hundreds of thousands of people affected by it.”

The first four chapters of Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine deal with the military juntas and international interference in South America from the mid 50s until the 80s. Highly recommended.

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I have been working on a series of posts about the Desaparecidos in Argentina specifically, one group of nationals affected by the continental ideological wars of South America in the 70s and 80s. Expect follow up posts on this subject.

ELSEWHERES

Pina works on incredible breadth of issues, all related by their focus on the harshest of social violence. Most recently, his work on the gangs of Rio de Janeiro has garnered attention, here and here.

Below is an image from his Portuguese political prisoners project (source).


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