You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Thanatourism’ tag.

Daniel Etter‘s project from Hohenschonhausen piggybacks on the story of Norbert Krebs to shape the narrative. Krebs was imprisoned in Hohenschonhausen – the primary Stasi Prison in the GDR – for questioning the reliability of election results. He now leads guided tours. In sites such as these, it is a solemn privilege to hear the first-hand experiences of anyone persecuted by prior political powers.

It is as much a dilemma for communities and nations as it is an opportunity to write and affirm history, when former prisons are repurposed. Prison museums, peace museums and memorials are all common solutions to the troublesome, contested and understandably hated sites.

Prison museums are very common – here’s a (non exhaustive) list of links.


Alcatraz Island
Texas Prison Museum
Angola Prison Museum, Louisiana
San Quentin Prison Museum
Folsom Prison Museum
Eastern State Penitentiary
Sing Sing Prison Museum
Old Montana Prison Museum
Burlington County Prison Museum
Museum of Colorado Prisons
Wyoming Frontier Prison


Dartmoor Prison Museum, England
Lancaster Castle, England
The Clink Prison Museum, London
Robben Island Museum, South Africa
Port Arthur Historic Site, Tasmania, Australia
Fremantle Prison, Western Australia
Abashiri Prison Museum, Japan
The Changi Museum, Singapore
Kresty Prison Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

If your interest is piqued, consult this huge inventory of prison museums from across the globe.

And here’s a random selection of photographs of a selection of prison museums.

Note: I have touched upon Hohenschonhausen before here and here.


At the 2009 World Press Photo Awards, it was the work of Roger Cremers‘ tourist behaviours at Auschwitz-Birkenau that caught my eye.

In a photography climate that frequently pours cynicism and scorn on global tourism, Cremers is on tricky ground. He can thank Martin Parr for making his path a little more tricky. How do we not dismiss Cremers’ work as stating the obvious?

Cremers does not reduce his tourists to unthinking crowds. Instead, he isolates his subjects; they’re in their own thoughts, their own photo-trance and their own space. There is no throng at Auschwitz and nor is there in Cremers’ images … except for the tightly-packed shuttle bus.



Many of the prisons and concentration camps of the Third Reich have since been incorporated into the culture & heritage industry. Auschwitz receives 750,000/year and Dachau 900,000/year (Young, 1993). In the fifteen years since, one would expect figures to have risen.

Lennon & Foley’s excellent book Dark Tourism argues these sites ‘constitute attractions and they cannot simply be classified as “Genocide Monuments” since a monument in this context conveys a different meaning’. Furthermore, ‘these sites present major problems in interpretation … major problems for the language utilized in interpretation to adequately convey the horrors of the camps. Consequently, historical records and visual representation is extensively used.’



Used not only by the site curators, but created by the visitors for later return. I am not comfortable saying that visitors to Auschwitz consume in the same way tourists do at other sites. I believe the subjects of Cremers photographs are creating their own visual memories of the site AND I believe Auschwitz visitors do so with a consciously different sensibility than at other sites.

I visited Auschwitz in 2000. Words were redundant, the scale of the crime overwhelming and agog meditation my modus operandi. It would be cognizant of the average visitor – knowing they may never return to the site – and unable to muster words, to muster a few images.


Recommended: the Guardian Photo Editor’s summary of the World Press Photo Awards, 2009


prisonphotography [at] gmail [dot] com

Prison Photography Archives

Post Categories