Alexis Marie: I have loved sharing the stories and inspirations of some truly interesting individuals during the InFocus 2016 show. Are you excited? Even through InFocus 2016 is already underway, it is not too early to begin preparing for InFocus 2017! In the fall, we will release the call for submissions and we would love to see your work. For now, I’m pleased to introduce one of our current and talented photographers, Brady Simpson.
In August of 2015 I attended the Arteles Creative Centre in Hämeenkyrö, Finland. Navigating through Europe is very easy and relatively cheap, so I decided to visit Estonia while I was in Europe, amongst a smattering of other places. The round trip train ticket to Stockholm and back was 24 euros, and the ferry across the Gulf of Finland was 50. Within a few hours you’re in an entirely different country and culture…bliss.
Estonia is still recovering from the hangover that was the Soviet era and still maintains many pieces of soviet architecture. Tallinn has a walled centre called Old Town that stems back to the 13th century with its walls largely still in tact. This is why it is a world heritage site but it provides an amazing experience. You have a beautiful walled city, cobblestone winding streets, and stunning architecture surrounded by these peppered remnants of the Soviet Union. One of these remnants is the Patarei Prison or it’s English translation, the Battery, and for 2 euros, you can wander the remains of a complex that began construction in 1828 under Tzar Nicholas I. It is a glimpse into hell.
The basement of this prison is where I took the photo featured in the InFocus exhibition. Of the same name as the series, Confinement encapsulates the entire experience of wandering this prison. The KGB favoured basement rooms such as this for their high moisture content, it’s a choking heavy air, a type of psychological torture. The low ceilings are heavily populated with arches to maintain the massive girth of itself and windows do little more than indicate if it’s day or night.
Patarei Prison is right on the shoreline of Estonia’s capital city Tallinn but you’d never know it by walking the halls. The higher floors offer higher ceilings and a little more light, but there is one thing that is common throughout these buildings, they are incredibly silent, no birds, no waves crashing, just silence. After leaving the prison I had a very heavy feeling, an almost need to enjoy my freedom after being within those walls. I grabbed some deli meat from a nearby store, along with some bread and cheese, and made my lunch in a scenic park back in Tallinn’s Old Town to cleanse my pallet with beautiful scenery. Incarceration is an incredibly complicated topic and I know leniency isn’t the public’s favourite dish when it comes to prisoners. But taking a look at Patarei Prison made me ask how we expect people to get better when we put them in places like this? Is it because we don’t want to help, we just want the problem hidden? Whatever the case may be, I hope places like the Battery will remain relics of the past.
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