|BRITNEY ANNE MAJURE|
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In 2007, on my first visit to Norway, I fell in love with the Norwegian forests and began to photograph there. I mainly went there to escape. Although the Norwegian people are generally a very gentle and friendly nationality, I still felt out of place in the somewhat homogenous state and desired to escape at times from my new environment.|
When I heard that even prisons in Norway sometimes have small forests, I wondered how a prisoner feels about their position in life and how they escape their present reality in the 'fengsel'. So in late 2009, I started photographing in Norwegian prisons, mostly at a women's prison that generally holds drug traffickers and drug offenders, who often are drug addicts, and a very famous men's prison in Norway, which houses murderers, robbers and rapists but is noted as one of the most progressive prisons in the world.
Aside from photographing, I also conduct interviews with guards and inmates. I ask each inmate about their history, current state, and their dreams, but I also ask them how they 'escape' from the tough issues and thoughts they deal with each day. Many go back to school, some draw, some dance, some listen to music, some start a band, many work, and some dream about the last time they kissed their boyfriend or girlfriend.
You can find superfluous amounts of articles showing how cushy and attractive Norwegian prisons are, and the American media often portrays them as 'vacation spots' or 'summer camps'. But the country boasts a prisoner return rate of 20%, whereas the US and UK have return rates of 50% to 60%. And despite the beautiful aesthetics, small forests, and professional and educational opportunities, these people are still behind a wall [or on an island] and far away from their friends and families. In my inmate interview sessions, almost all say the worst punishment is isolation from their homes and society.
With this project, I have no intention of including stereotypical or sensational images of prison bars or making the prisoners look like thugs or the guards like watchdogs. That's been done many times and is no longer interesting. Since most inmates I've photographed and interviewed have committed their crimes after losing something valuable that most Westerners take for granted, such as the loss of family, shelter or job, I attempt to give them a bit of dignity and optimism for the future. Most importantly, I want to show the tremendous sense of hope that exists behind these fengsel walls.