Mikhael Subotzky

Foam Fotografiemuseum

To examine life in confinement poses a serious challenge to photographers; attempts to see inside any closed and secretive prison system seem doomed to produce limited results. Still, South Africa’s jails exert an unusual fascination, for until recently many viewed the country itself as a gigantic prison for its black majority; furthermore, the country continues to have one of the highest rates of incarceration in the world. On his website, the photographer Mikhael Subotzky quotes the most famous of South Africa’s former prisoners, Nelson Mandela: “It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”

Subotzky has been attracted to the subject of life in South Africa’s overcrowded prisons since his student years. His 2004 final-year project at the University of Cape Town

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