Wednesday, January 1, 2014

"Sailboats and Swans" — Portraits of Russian and Ukrainian Prisoners by Michal Chelbin

Michal Chelbin is an Israel-based photographer. She was born in the Israeli city of Haifa in 1974, became interested photography at age 15 and attended a high school for the arts. After high school she served two years in the military—a mandatory service for all Israeli citizens. She was, not surprisingly, assigned as a photographer to Dover Tzahal, the Israeli Defense Force unit responsible for information policy and media relations. There she gained experience in field photography and discovered she had no passion for pure documentary work.

Sailboats and Swans is a series of portraits depicting inmates housed at Russian and Ukrainian prisons. Chelbin shoots with a Hasselblad 6x6 using fast film and available light in order to achieve a sense of intimacy in her photographs. She spends a great deal of time with the people she photographs and she says she finds that not using a flash makes people more comfortable.
"I like the Hasselblad very much. It is easy to handle and the lenses are superb," she said in an interview. "I also like it because I often try to address troubling issues and the use of this balanced / symmetrical format causes the form and the content to conflict, which is something I like."
The project was completed over the course of six years and is available as a monograph from Twin Palms Publishing.
"In 2006 while visiting the Ukraine, I passed along a high brick wall. Next to it stood two men. Our eyes crossed and I can still remember their eyes today- they expressed this mesmerizing human blend of fear and cruelty. I was later told this was a men's prison and from that moment I wanted to see what was inside.
When I was eventually allowed to take portraits inside the prison, I decided to ask the subjects about their crimes only after we had finished the photo session. I did not want to be influenced by the knowledge of what he or she did. I was only interested in his gaze and in unfolding a complicated scene for the viewer.
While I shoot almost all my work in Russia or the Ukraine, I feel that my interest is not social or geographical, but rather a mythological one. I return to these countries because they provide me with the visual contrasts that are the basic set up I am searching for- between old and new, odd and ordinary, as well as fantasy and reality." (via INSTITUTE)

Natalia, Sentenced for Stabbing, Juvenile prison for Girls, Ukraine 2009

Swastika, Men's Prison, Ukraine 2008

Vania, Sentenced for Violence against Women, Ukraine 2010

Natasha, Women's Prison, Ukraine 2010

Nadia,Sentenced for Narcotics, Women's Prison, Ukraine 2010

Ira, Sentenced for Theft, Women's Prison, Ukraine 2010

Dima and Maksim, Juvenile Prison for Boys, Russia 2009

Lena and Katya, Juvenile Prison for Girls, Ukraine 2009

Sergey, Sentenced for Violence against Women, Juvenile Prison for Boys, Russia 2009

Masha and Sveta, Juvenile Prison for Girls, Ukraine 2009

Sergey, Sentenced for Murder, Juvenile Prison for Boys, Russia 2009

Skarhod, Men's Prison, Ukraine 2008

Lena, Sentenced for organizing a rape, Juvenile Prison for Girls, Ukraine 2009

Religion Class, Men's Prison, Ukraine 2008

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