© Carl De Keyzer

Russia, Siberia, 2001
Krasnoyarsk region. Former Guglags turned into prison camps. Hospital camp. Prisoners building a new area.
© Carl De Keyzer

Carl De Keyzer

"Zona" is Siberian slang for prison. Over the course of two years, the award-winning Belgian photographer Carl De Keyzer documented daily life in 35 of the 135 prison camps in the region of Krasnojarsk, Siberia. In a territory as big as Europe, prisoners live in a "country" of its own, with specifc rules and aesthetics.

To many Westerners, Siberia remains geographically and culturally distant, a place notorious for the horror of Stalin's prison camps. Offcially disbanded in 1960, the legacy of the Gulag persists and today the camps still house a free labour force of around a million prisoners, headed by one General in charge.

De Keyzer reveals a harsh way of life totally isolated from the rest of the world. Shaven-headed, gaunt young men crowd together to eat fish and hewn blocks of bread; a prisoner takes an icy outdoor shower in -40c conditions; another recovers from TB in a bleak ward where orange check fabric serves for both blankets and pyjamas.

Alongside these images, more surprising revelations are made - a gang of brawny tattooed inmates labour under a bright blue sky; a smiling prisoner holds up his newborn baby, and female convicts smooch at the Saturday night disco.

De Keyzer's images, often in startling colour, jolt us with their immediacy and offer a rare insight into the lives of those inhabiting these isolated institutions.

Born in 1958 in Ghent, Belgium, Carl De Keyzer has been an invited member of Magnum photo agency since 1994. His work has been exhibited in numerous solo shows worldwide, including Moscow House of Photography, California Museum of Photography and Bombay Center for Photography. His awards include The Hasselblad Award, The Eugene Smith Award and The Kodak Book Award.

"Zona" is organised by Magnum Photos.

The publication "Zona - Siberian Prison Camps", with text by Carl De Keyzer, is published in hardback by Trolley, featuring 90 colour images. It has been shortlisted for the 2005 Kraszna-Krausz Book Awards.

Exhibition: 24 June - 20 August 2005
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