the portuguese prison photo project – an exhibition about photographical insights into Portuguese prisons

the portuguese prison photo project provides an insight into the contemporary prisons of Portugal. From the largest and oldest dating back to 1880 to the newest ones opened in 2004, these seven Estabelecimentos Prisionais represent around a quarter of all detention places.


The photographs have been shot by a Portuguese and a Swiss photographer in 2016/2017. Their photographic approaches offer two completely different views. The exhibition also comprises a historical part, with photographs from state archives. It is the first extensive photo production about prisons in Portugal.

The exhibition with current and historical prison photographs is shown in the rooms of the Portuguese Center for Photography (CPF) – the former town prison of Porto.

The is the ideal place to show this exhibition of contemporary and historic prison photography. From the first encounter of the Centre and its impressive prison building, Daniel Fink, a lecturer on prison history at the University of Lausanne, developed the idea of an exhibition on the subject, accompanied by an international conference on prisons: history, culture, photography. Together with the Director of the Centre, Bernardino Castro, and professor Cândido da Agra, University of Porto, he initiated the activities of the organizing committee.

The organisers thank Dr Celso Manata, Director-General of the Direção-Geral de Reinserção e Serviços Prisionais (DGRSP), as well as all its staff members who contributed to the success of the project. 


The photographers

Luis Barbosa

Photographer and trainer at the Instituto Português de Fotografia IPF Porto | born in 1975 in Porto, Portugal

Specializes in social and cultural photo documentation. His interest in photography led him very early into the darkroom where he experimented with a black and white technique which he still favours. He has shown his photographs in various exhibitions and in his blog. He trained at the IPF Porto, where he today teaches photographers. Asked to participate in this project, he was very enthusiastic.
In his black and white pictures of the prisons visited, he presents the point of view of detainees first and their feelings.

„As I never entered a prison before, I was pleased to be soon allowed to discover a new, hidden world, but also aware that participating would bring some emotional charge.“

Luis Barbosa, photographer

Peter M. Schulthess

Photographer SBF, specialized in architectural photography, particularly of prisons | born in 1966 in Basel, Switzerland

His first photographic experience with a prison was in the old penitentiary of Basel, 15 years ago. It led to his lasting interest in prison and correctional photography. Documenting detention places and prison life became a long-term project as a photographer and author. Next to the prisons of Switzerland, he visited facilities in Germany and now in Portugal. 
During his visits of Portuguese prisons, he was accompanied by Gilda Santos of the University of Porto.
He is a member of the Swiss Professional Photographers and Photo Designers SBF.


“This project is a step into an unknown world, in a country I had never visited before. What would I see and what would I be allowed to photograph? Which pictures would I be allowed to show?”

Peter M. Schulthess, photographer

Historical photographs

Curated by Professorin Maria José Moutinho Santos | Prison historian | CITCEM – University of Porto

The historical photographs presented were taken between 1876 and 1974, and belong to the collections of several state archives. These photographs, which were chosen from a universe of several hundred, provide a counter­point to the contemporary images of Peter Schulthess and Luis Barbosa. If the latter ones reflect two different perspectives, the historical pictures were the result of different insights, shot in political, penal and prison contexts that largely differ from the current one.

"The very diversity of these images’ contents and contexts – which are of an unexpected documental richness – transformed my contribution within this project into a remarkable personal experience."

Maria José Moutinho Santos, University of Porto

The exhibition

9 September - 3 December 2017

Built in the 1770s as a prison and a court house │Since 1997 Portuguese Centre for Photography CPF │ Photo archive and exhibition centre

The Centro Português de Fotografia CPF has the mandate to manage the national photographic archive, to promote the photographic heritage, to care for a collection of photographic equipment and to organize exhibitions of photographs.

The imposing building in the city center of Porto, today a national monument, is an impressive witness of prison history and offers a coherent environment with a remarkable ambiance, large communal cells, thick prison walls and heavy steel bars.

Raumplan der Ausstellung the portuguese prison photo project

1 – Introduction:  Luis Barbosa & Peter Schulthess
2 – The Lights + Shadows:  Luis Barbosa
3 – The Details:  Peter Schulthess
4 – The Past:  Pictures from the Archives

Guided Tours

a) Guided tour through the exhibition with both photographers

Calender of guided tours: Saturdays 9 September, 14 October, 2 December I 3 p.m. resp. 4.30 p.m.

Louis Barbosa starts his tour in Portuguese at 3 p.m. and Peter Schulthess follows at 4.30 p.m. in German (and English). Each tour lasts about one hour and has a different focus. Both photographers are present on each tour.
The exhibition opens at 3 p.m., entrance and tours are free of charge.


Opening hours

September - October:
Tue-Fri: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sat/Sun/Holidays: 3 p.m. – 7 p.m.

November – December:
Tue-Fri: 10 a.m. – 00.30 p.m.
and 2 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Sat/Sun/Holidays: 3 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Monday closed.

Entry fee

The entry to the museum is free of charge.

Flyer (PDF) for downloading, printing and sharing