(This project in collaboration with Denis Tarasov)
For three years photographers Denis Tarasov and Fyodor Telkov have been studying the world of the penitentiaries, restricted and frightening because of its everyday cruelty. They photographed terrible criminals sentenced to life imprisonment and ordinary people who made a false step only once in their life. The photographers visited juvenile and female prisons; worked in museums and archives with the most high-profile cases of the past, recorded interviews with former prisoners. This work resulted in a photo series about crime and punishment, freedom and nonconformism, the nature of evil which is timeless and takes root in a person’s soul.
The world of the criminals is cruel and inhuman. Many prisoners consider the time spent in prison terrible and dreadful: “I have not much faith in people left” – confesses one of them. But the human ability to survive in any circumstances has no limits. Women are still women even dressed in prison uniforms, they give birth to children and dream about happy life.
As a matter of fact, not all people consider freedom an absolute value. For some imprisonment becomes a chance to finish education, obtain professional skills which increase the chances for further rehabilitation. For many the fixed daily regimen in jail is preferable to the frightening uncertainty on the other side of the wall. The prisoners call prison a good school of life and even their home. “Human being is a creature that gets used to anything, and this, I think, is the best definition for him” – said Fyodor Dostoyevsky who himself had spent some time in hard labor. Such thoughts make one take a different view not only of the penal system but of the society as a whole.
It is an illusion that the world on “the other side of the wall” is safe because of the barb wire. In fact, it is a part of the society and the boundaries are penetrable. History of the mankind is the history of crimes. Murderers and their victims are somebody’s children, friends, colleagues, they go to the same schools, walk the same streets, and live next door. No one can ever feel safe anywhere because humans are evil and vicious by nature. This is how it was in the past and it will be so in the future.
Text by Artem Berkovich