A picture of life behind bars

RNW archive

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Cruel and Unsual is the title of a Dutch exhibition of photos taken in prisons around the world. The title of the exhibition refers to the English Bill of Rights from 1689 and the US constitution which both state that citizens should be protected from “cruel and unusual” punishment. The photos show that in many places this legal requirement has been forgotten.

The exhibition presents prison photos by 11 women photographers. Each of them depicts the often harsh reality of life behind bars in their own personal way.

Amy Elkins portrays prisoners in the most highly secure prison in the United States, often waiting for the death sentence. The longer they have been in prison and the greater the distance to their lives outside prison, the more the photo has been blurred.

Jane Lindsay presents the prisoners’ faces on gems, black enamelled metal disks. Nathalie Mohadjer took photos of children in filthy prisons in Burundi. And Araminta de Clermont focussed on the Numbers, prison gangs in South Africa.

Resignation, despair, humiliation – it's hard not to be stirred by the images.


Photo exhibition Cruel and Unusual
18 February - 1 April 2012,
Photogallery Noorderlicht, Groningen
Open: Wednesday - Sunday 12 - 6 p.m.