17 March - 18 July 2004
Zona: Siberian slang for prison.
In 1950, more than 12 million people, most of them political prisoners, were being held in the gulags described by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. There are still 135 gulags today, holding over one million prisoners under ordinary law, many of them serving long prison sentences.
Between 2000 and 2002, Carl de Keyzer spent several months in Siberia’s Krasnoyarsk region, taking pictures of everyday life in the camps. The photos he brought back are a startling departure from the commonly held idea of the camps.
In one camp for women, a room has been converted into a discotheque for the space of a few hours; there are pictures of a marriage between prisoners, a makeshift shower located outside in 50 below weather, two prisoners playing tennis … without a ball.
“What I saw there was quite surprising. […] I had an idea of black and white, dark pictures, torture. But the camp itself is sort of a Disneyland. You come into a gate decorated with metal soldiers made by the prisoners, there are huge murals, famous Russian paintings about glorious moments from the Middle Ages or even earlier; at the entrance also there is a huge steam train on top of the gate, there’s a wooden windmill, Don Quixote, there is a pyramid, Egyptian style […] just like you would see at the entrance of any cheap amusement park.”
The exhibition comprises 70 large-format colour photographs. Carl de Keyzer was born in Ghent, Belgium, in 1958 and has been a member of the Magnum Agency since 1994. His work has been exhibited around the world and made available in numerous publications.