« Ici c’est l’aquarium, dehors c’est l’océan »

Matei Focseneanu


The need for freedom has led my family to flee Romanian communism. Today, this same need guides and feeds into my practice. It got me involved in border thinking and enticed me to explore the margins. In this project the margin is prison, more specifically one intended for women. A prison whose supposedly rehabilitative dimension is more than often eclipsed by the purely punitive side of incarceration. With its isolating aspect, incarceration slowly but surely undermines the image of the self and the social identity of the inmates.

I have always been fascinated by clothes not only for their aesthetic aspect but also for their implicit communicative capacity. The latter function has proved to be a privileged medium of communication between the inside and the outside of prison. Apparel in pictures establishes a language, a dialogue between the inmate who wears it on the one hand and the eye that looks at the images produced on the other. Apparel take on a significant role in this project especially that the Swiss law does not allow prisoners’ faces to be shown in pictures nor to be recognized.

I adopt the language of fashion photography; I use it in this particular context for self-image restoration. The overall goal was to take advantage of the visual and conceptual richness of these outfits - made by three fashion designers of the HEAD school of Geneva, Rémi Galtier, Adeline Rappaz and Claire Lefebvre - to allow the inmates to expand the possibilities of their body language and expression. The latter were able to reclaim their bodies freely, just as they were also at liberty to choose their gestures, postures, poses, hairstyles, and makeup as well as the music that accompanied this experience.

As in the outfits, monotony mixes with fantasy. The lines are clean and straight, just like the image of the sanitized universe of a prison. But the movements and postures of the inmates, supported by bright colors, allow each of them to express their own identity on a score punctuated by pieces of black tape. The prison is invisible but the confinement is represented by a repetitive and central framing, associated with a lighting without shadows and drown in white color like the boredom that drowns these people day after day.

Thus, this project aims at the visibilization of women inmates, which is heavily lacking today. By enabling an inner voice, which their bodies articulate through garments, I seek to reclaim and restore their self-image and identity.

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  • Tuilière prison walls #1

  • Mme. A. #2

  • Mme. C. #1

  • Mme. W. #1

  • Mme. O. #1

  • Mme. V. #1

  • Mme. F. #2

  • Mme. F. #1

  • Mme. O. & Mme. A. #1

  • Tuilière prison walls #2

  • Mme. A. #4

  • Mme. A. #1

  • Mme. C. #3

  • Mme. V. #2

  • Mme. O. #2

  • Mme. G. #1

  • Mme. C. #2

  • Mme. K. #1

  • Tuilière prison walls #3