2011 - 2014
I began taking pictures in French prisons in 2010, for the film “The blind spot of the Republic” by Stephane Mercurio (Iskra Films). At the time, I met the General inspector of French prisons [Contrôleur Général des Lieux de Privation de Liberté], Jean-Marie Delarue, who appointed me a few months later to be inspector of prisons. From January 2011 to January 2014, I get right to the heart of confinement. I’ve visited about twenty penitentiaries, staying in each one for five to ten days. I’m able to photograph everything; the inside of the cells, the exercise yard, the visiting rooms, showers, the ‘cooler’ (solitary confinement unit)… Day and night. I have access to all areas. Away from public view, prisons are the stuff of fantasy, but there’s nothing spectacular about the reality I experienced there. What really turns the ordinary into a nightmare and creates the hell of incarceration are the multiple and repeated acts of degrading treatment: demeaning rules, solitude, promiscuity, insalubrity, idleness, absence of prospect, discomfort… In addition, there is violence, which is perpetrated in shady corners and the exercise yard. It’s this closeness of confinement I’m trying to capture in colour, up close and personal, with no effects. I’m not trying to portray an action or an anecdote. I use little touches, soak up the geography of the prison, the light, sounds, smells and stories of the inmates... I capture the inexpressible, time standing still, life shrinking, fading. I don’t show faces. I don’t tell stories. I deal with the treatment of individuals and their integrity. I look at what spatiality, movement, posture and physical aspects reveal about the condition of confinement today.