Karl Schoemaker

While in London recently I was lucky enough to trip across a fab gallery on the South Bank, in the Oxo building. I was drawn in by the arresting black and white photographs of prison cells in South Africa. Stark, disturbingly brutal but really beautiful photographs of the long abandoned holding cells of the Baakens Police Station in Port Elizabeth where numerous political activists were among those incarcerated.

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It’s worth quoting Shoemaker directly on his project:

Gaining access from the building’s owner, once inside Schoemaker discovered graffiti documenting names, dates and crimes.

Taken over three months, Schoemaker was mindful to never spend more than two to three hours in the cells, afraid of becoming desensitised to the enormity of the history recorded on the walls. 

“Its also a foreboding and frightening place to visit on your own” adds the photographer.

Schoemaker captured the images alone: “The place was dark and dank, and to shoot the cells properly, I always closed the heavy cell doors which gave me the feeling of being trapped. At other times I would go down and simply read the stories scratched into the walls, not photographing anything. But sitting with their energy, imagining the emotions they felt.”

Instagram: @karl_schoemaker