Worlds Within Worlds

Various different aspects of Dorchester Prison have revealed themselves to me gradually over time as I have worked there. One theme I am enjoying exploring is the concept of Heterotopias. This theory was proposed by the philosopher Michel Foucault and it describes the concept of spaces that are somehow other or parallel to the norm. They are worlds within worlds, mirroring but upsetting what is outside them. A prison is one clear example of this.

I was first pointed in this direction when photographing through some of the observation panels in the prison doors. These are used by prison officers to see what the prisoners are doing without them having to open the door. The doors I took pictures of had round viewers made from Perspex. They had been scratched, melted and worn by use and the inmates until semi opaque. I noticed when I looked back at the images afterwards that they looked very much like moons or planets. This seemed apposite when being incarcerated must be like existing in totally different world from the one outside.

I followed that discovery with further experiments photographing textures inside the prison using a fisheye lens to create a circular image. This gave a similar effect and I have now produced a whole universe of these “planet” images. They have a fragile beauty which seems incongruous given where the photos were taken but they seem to speak to that concept of the isolated othered heterotopia, where nothing is quite normal.