Carandiru
Scenes of a huddle of people in inhumane conditions inside a cell usually populate the imaginary, when the subject is a prison in Brazil or Latin America. Especially in case of the Casa de Detenção de São Paulo (House of Detention of São Paulo), popularly known as Carandiru. On October 2nd, 1992, this icon of a precarious prison system was the scene of a merciless slaughter, which culminated in the death of 111 inmates. The Massacre do Carandiru (Carandiru Massacre), as the tragedy became known, has called in such a way the national and international public attention, that, in 2002, it ended up being disabled and later demolished. Its history, worldwide known, gave rise to books, films and series. However, more than 25 years after the incident, the case of the massacre, as well as the tragic situation of the Brazilian prison system and that of many others in the world remains far from a solution.

Between 2004 and 2005, I frequented the place in order to photograph it. At that time, the prison had already been deactivated and the various pavilions were in different situations: some, in the process of demolition; others, occupied and designed by the production teams responsible for the recording of the film and the series; and others simply abandoned and untouched. Reality and fiction were confused between the scenography that sought to identify the particularities of each person and the true marks carved in all corners.

The jail, its motto, rules and the imprisoned life are manifested through the emptiness. Contrary to the basic connotation of overcrowding, the absence of the human figure in photographs symbolizes only a corporeal absence, figurative, since the vestiges of those individuals, are squeezed and manifested themselves in other ways. The loneliness that prevails in an overcrowded prison can be the same that resides in this abandoned place. The sighs found in the details are personality and memory traits of those who have been there, whether for a short period of time, for practically a lifetime, or those who never left.
"I recognize in the photos the search for the unusual, the loneliness, the emptiness and the absence of the man who inhabited that space.

His images have a tenacity and perplexity that stand on their own."


— Hector Babenco