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

From 19th April until 15th September 2024 at Museu de Portimão.


Days until the opening of the exhibition

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 eight Estabelecimentos Prisionais represent over a quarter of all detention places of the country.

The photographs have been shot in 2016/2017 and in early 2020 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, a third exhibition is now taking place, again in Lisbon, with a concept adapted to the new place, the Arquivo Nacional Torre do Tombo.


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. His interest in photography started in the darkroom, a black and white technique which he still favours although he works also with digital cameras. He has shown his photographs in various exhibitions and gives insights of his approach of photography on his website and blog. 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 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 in 2016/2017, he was accom­panied by Gilda Santos of the University of Porto and in 2020 by Catarina Frois, ISCTE Lisbon.
*He is a member of the Swiss Professional Photographers and Film Creators 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

19 April – 15 September 2024

Museu de Portimão