Powerful prison images in exhibit at Maitland Gaol

Eerie: Detail from a photograph of Port Arthur Historic Site. Picture: Brett Leigh Dicks
Eerie: Detail from a photograph of Port Arthur Historic Site. Picture: Brett Leigh Dicks

Australian photographer Brett Leigh Dicks is presenting an intriguing photographic show, Behind These Walls: Photographs of Decommissioned Australian Prisons and Gaols, from December 16 at Maitland Gaol.

 “Empty prisons are eerie places and each has its own history, character, and stories to tell, but so too does every cell,” Maitland Gaol coordinator Gordon Sauber says. “Old prisons are also not just a reminder of the past, but they can also help guide the future and Brett has managed to capture that in this very unique exhibition.”

The exhibition includes both historic and contemporary sites. There are also images of Maitland Gaol in the exhibition as well as photographs from Adelaide Gaol, Fremantle Prison, HM Prison Geelong, J Ward Ararat, Old Dubbo Gaol, Parramatta Correctional Centre and Port Arthur Historic Site.

The subject matter ranges from the empty quietness of once bustling cellblocks and common areas, to more abstract contemplations of the interaction between barred windows with the morning light and the poetic twisting of coils of barbed wire.

“I have been photographing closed down prisons across the United States for the past decade,” Dicks says. “Last year that work was exhibited at Fremantle Prison where someone asked me about Australian prisons. Nobody had previously done a comprehensive study of decommissioned Australian prisons and gaols.

“Given Australia’s convict past and the enduring legacy of the country’s colonial history, it seemed only fitting I should photograph Australian prisons too.”

The show at Maitland is part of the 20 Years On commemoration of Maitland Gaol closing in 1997. The gaol will have an open day on January 28, 2018.

The photo exhibition show runs through February 23, 2018.

Given Australia’s convict past and the enduring legacy of the country’s colonial history, it seemed only fitting I should photograph Australian prisons too.

Photographer Brett Leigh Dicks