Raymond Depardon’s best photograph: a prisoner jogging in endless circles

By Interview by Sarah Moroz

‘He had requested to stay in solitary confinement. The netting up above is there to stop escapes by helicopter'

This was taken in 1998 at the Maison Centrale de Clairvaux, a former abbey turned high-security prison in France. Clairvaux is rough but the surroundings were impressive because it's in Aube, up in the country's north-east. We asked if we could visit solitary confinement, where prisoners are usually placed for fighting with other inmates or for not heeding discipline. But this man had actually requested to stay there. He wanted to be alone, he just felt better there.

Solitary is usually a bare-bones cell. But this inmate had a courtyard to himself. You can see the netting above him as he jogs. All traditional French prisons have that, to stop escapes via helicopter. It was difficult to photograph imprisonment in France. Unlike in the US, you can't shoot prisoners' faces. And there's nothing much to photograph anyway – little is provided for the prisoners, it's raw.

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Source: Raymond Depardon’s best photograph: a prisoner jogging in endless circles