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

From 19th April until 1st September 2024 at Museu de Portimão. (Portimão, Algarve region)


Days until the opening of the exhibition

the portuguese prison photo project provides an insight into the contemporary prisons of Portugal. From the largest (in Lisbon) or the oldest (in Ponta Delgada in the Azores) to the newest ones opened in 2004, these Estabelecimentos Prisionais represent allmost 40% of all detention places of the country.

The photographs have been shot in 2016–2017 and 2020-2023 by a Portuguese and a Swiss photographer, Luis Barbosa and Peter Schulthess. Their photographic approaches offer two completely different views. It is the first extensive photo production about prisons in Portugal.

After the success of the first exhibition in Porto held in 2017, at the Centro Português de Fotografia CPF, and the awarding by the S.A.P. to Luis Barbosa of the prize for best photographic work 2017, and after its display in Lisbon in 2019 at the Museu do Aljube, and in 2022 at the National Archive Torre de Tombo, a fourth exhibition is held in the Museu de Portimão in the Algarve, with a new concept adapted to the circumstances. Indeed, in relation to the 50th anniversary of the Carnation Revolution of 1974, historical photomaterial will be shown of the political prisons of the PIDE and the concentration camps from the time of the Estado Novo.  

photo: Luis Barbosa, 2017

The photographers


Luis Barbosa

Photographer and teacher at the Instituto Português de Fotografia IPF Porto | born in 1975 in Porto, Portugal | recipient of the award of the S.A.P. for best work of photography 2017 |

Specializes in social and cultural photo documentation. He trained at the IPF Porto, where he now teaches photography. Asked to participate in this project, he was very enthusiastic. In his black and white pictures of the prisons visited, he wanted to put the emphasis on atmosphere and ambiance.

„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 SIYU*, 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 at the beginning of the 2000s. It led to his lasting interest in prison photography. Documenting detention places became a long term project as a photographer and author. Next to the prisons of Switzerland, he visited and photographed facilities in Germany and in Portugal.
*Member of SIYU professional photography switzerland.

“This project brought me to a country I had never visited before. What would I see and what would I be allowed to photograph? Which pictures shall we be allowed to show?”

Peter M. Schulthess, photographer

Historical photographs

Part 1: prisons for criminal detention

Curated by Professor 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

Part 2: prisons for political detention

Curated by Professor Luis Farinha | Historian | Nova University Lisbon

On the 50th anniversary of the Carnation Revolution which marked the end of the dictatorship known as the Estado Novo (“Salazar dictatorship”), we are showing for the first time as part of our project photographs of the special prisons and concentration camps for political prisoners for the period 1926 to 1974 – in Portugal and the colonies.

“More than ever, it is important to show the reality of dictatorial regimes which use violence, imprisonment and torture to intimidate opponents and critics.”

LUIS FARINHA, Nova University Lisbon

Photo: Peter Schulthess, 2023

The exhibition

19 April – 1st September 2024

Museu de Portimão

Museu de Portimáo | opened in 2008 | in 2010, awarded the Museum Prize of the Council of Europe

In the former factory hall of a cannery, the history of industrial fish processing in the 20th century is impressively shown – from the landing of the fish at the port to the finished tin can. In the factory hall, which is faithfully reproduced to the original, with conveyor belts, wire baskets, machines and ovens, life-size plaster figures stand at their workplaces and go about their daily work accompanied by tape recordings of the factory noises.

Other rooms in the new buildings of the museum complex are used for temporary exhibitions.

Museo de Portimão. Photo: Peter Schulthess


Museu de Portimäo
Rua D. Carlos 1
8500-607 Portimão - PORTUGAL

Opening hours

1st September until 31st July
Tuesday 14:30–18:00  
Wednesday to Sunday 10:00–18:00

1st bis 31st August
Tuesday 19:30–23:00
Wednesday to Sunday 15:00–23:00

Closed: Monday and national holidays  

Entry fee

Regular: 3,00 €
> 65 years: 1,50 €
16 to 25 years: 1.50  €
Sunday: Free entry for national residents

Temporary exhibitions: Free entry