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Portraits of Russian Prisoners ‘Locked Up in a World Devoid of Hope’

Michal Chelbin

Sailboats and Swans, shot in seven prisons in the Ukraine and Russia over the past six years, explores what it means to be locked and constantly watched. The title refers to the idiosyncratic, and almost mocking, bucolic and fantastical murals and wallpaper backgrounds I found throughout the prisons. These contradictions of life in prison abound in girls’ flowery dress prison uniforms, murderers working as nannies to other women’s babies in the new mothers’ prison, young girls serving time alongside grandmothers – perhaps witness to their own futures, and the mesmerizing human blend of fear and cruelty in the boys’ and mens’ prison – where big tattooed bodies are now zombie-like, worn down by the daily travails of trying to survive being locked up in a world devoid of hope.—Michal Chelbin

Israeli born and based photographer Michal Chelbin fostered connections along the way that gained her rare access to the prisoners. Her portrait sittings sometimes lasted for hours, Chelbin never asking about the crime committed until after the portrait was finished. Sailboats and Swans is currently on display at Andrea Meislin Gallery in New York through January 19th, 2013. The monograph was published this fall by Twin Palms Publishers.

Michal Chelbin

Michal Chelbin

Michal Chelbin

Michal Chelbin

Michal Chelbin

Michal Chelbin

Michal Chelbin

Michal Chelbin

(via Animal New York)

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