Some years ago when we first moved to this city as a family, we lived in a former occupied zone of the French. It resembled a ghost town, as hardly anybody else was there. Our living room window was bigger than the entire flat the hubs and I now share, and the family houses were similarly big. Each one housed four flats, including a chamber maid section on the top of the house. I guess the French generals were each assigned at least one servant, as there also was a bell going from that living room to under the roof.
The living room looked straight onto the airport. I remember one time as I was coming home from school I had to show my passport, as the Papa mobile was entering the airport past our house. It’s security gates were two minutes away from my home. Strange place indeed. There were about six of these complexes, and each had managed to let out about one flat, so this already spooky areal near the flood lit security entrance of the airport was not very populated at all.
Now prisoners are always a part of society, some more visible, others less since done in secret. My granddad was taken away at night without a proper trial just shortly before the wall was built as he had entertained contacts to the western side of the city. He left his wife with five kids behind in complete darkness in every sense of the word. For four years she had no idea what had happened to him or whether or not he was still alive.
Yes, the GDR had less criminals, maybe because the crimes were committed by the state itself? Putting someone away for listening to the radio seems not at all justified. His wife meanwhile was supported by loyal friends in her church. She had no income or other support and was unable to work as she had 5 kids under the age of 10 to care for. As soon as granddad got out, they fled the country. I guess my dad has had to bear those wounds for many years. His father was a broken person after prison. My other granddad, too, was a prisoner. Of war in his case.
Yes, he fought for the bad guys, but he too saw heinous acts being committed by either side of the fence and he was seriously traumatized by them. You could watch him as though a flick was switched when he got into the zone. Prison affects many members of society themselves, and so many more of those left behind. I probably was too self obsessed to pay enough attention to that part of our family history. There was another prisoner, back in the middle ages, he was hung up inside a metal cage above the towns market square and left there to die.
That story had my attention, and I thought it really cool. I did not think at all though as I learned that one of the complexes was being let out to former inmates in order to rehabilitate them. One day I walked over there and started smoking cigarettes with them and chatting away. Picture the scene, a teenage girl wandering into a big 12,000 foot house populated by former inmates of all kinds. In an area that was swept clean of anything resembling human existence for most part of the day. And, what did I do? I started to take pictures.
Yes, I photographed one man in particular, his portrait, and had it printed onto stickers and pillow cases and coffee mugs and bags, not really thinking about the why and such, but using it as part of a portfolio to get into art college. Keep in mind it was pre-digital-age pretty much, and printing something in color was expensive and difficult to execute. Well, I did get into fashion college in London, and, after a few years there a designer made a mint from selling, guess what? Photographic images printed on bags.
Nowadays you can get them for 2 cents a piece since everyone has access to the necessary tools, back then it was something so new and special. I guess she made her fortune with that particular design. And, I guess I should have taken the idea further and actually try to sell it, which I did not do. Her name is Anya Hindmarch. Yes, I was being terribly avant garde there.