Zona is a photo project of famous Belgian photographer and journalist Carl De Keyzer. In the early 2000s Carl visited 40 former Gulags turned into prison camps in Krasnoyarsk region (Siberia, Russia). Among them were men, women and youth camps (14-18 year old boys). Also transit camps where prisoners wait to be transferred to a specific camp.
In his book Carl De Keyzer writes:
‘What I saw there was quite surprising. I read Solzhenitsyn 15-20 years ago, so I had a very grim idea of these camps, if they still existed anyway. I had an idea of black and white, dark pictures, torture. But the camp itself is sort of a Disneyland. You come into a gate decorated with metal soldiers made by the prisoners, there are huge murals, famous Russian paintings about glorious moments from the middle ages or even earlier, and at the entrance also there’s a huge steam train on top of the gate, there’s a wooden windmill, Don Quixote, there is a pyramid, Egyptian style.
There’s all kinds of things, ornaments that were really very surprising, like wooden houses to keep the guards in, just like you would see at the entrance of any cheap amusement park. Everything was in colour, all the walls and interiors, mostly light blue, light green. Psychologically chosen colours, I guess, to put prisoners’ minds at rest.‘
The Photographer: Carl De Keyzer