Publish date 12-03-2023

by Chiara Vitali

You have lived inside a prison, perhaps for years, and you discover that some photographers want to make an exhibition about your daily life and the space in which you live. However, they are not the ones who take the photographs: they give the camera directly in hand to you.
This is the heart of a project that took place in four prisons in Milan, where sixty inmates and forty prison officers became photographers and narrated a reality that is usually difficult to shed light on. The initiative is of the Associazione Ri-scatti Onlus and was born thanks to the collaboration of educators and operators of penitentiary institutes and various institutions of the city.
For months, inmates and agents took photography lessons, learned to shoot, adjust the light, choose the best angles. Thousands and thousands of shots, then 800 of them were selected and set up on display in the Contemporary Art Pavilion, a well-known space in the city and open to the public.

Entering the exhibition, the impression is of approaching life from another perspective. The images tell the moments of leisure – the men sunbathe on the asphalt, play soccer, read in front of a mural reproducing Michelangelo's “Creation of Adam” – and of daily life. They show suffering, fatigue, lack of space and perspectives. "I would like to go to the beach - writes a prisoner on a sheet - but I know that I will have to wait several years". The photographers weren't afraid to show the tougher sides: come and see, they seem to say.
The goal of the organizers was precisely to show the Institutes in the round. «It was a path never faced before by anyone else – they said -. Prison is a world unknown to those who don't live in it, crowded with human beings who cannot be left alone, who must be helped to save themselves by their conviction that they no longer have any chance of redemption». You leave the exhibition with a small weight on your chest, with the desire to know more and to act, with a question: what would happen if all those who have no voice could tell the world directly with their eyes?

Chiara Vitali
NP December 2022

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