A guide to the New East
Photography

World apart: growing up in a teenage detention centre

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Ever since driving past it with her parents as a child, photographer Hana Knizova has been interested in what life was like in a teenage detention centre near Hamr na Jezeře in the Czech Republic’s Liberec region. Returning as an adult, she produced an intimate portrait of its inhabitants over the course of two years. “It’s in nature, next to a lake, but the kids living at the complex have their own schooling, so they hardly interact with the real world,” says Knizova. Those living at the complex are aged from their early teens to 16, and have been institutionalised for various behavioural problems, ranging from aggression at school to petty crime. Their length of stay varies from a couple of months to several years. Knizova didn't have many problems establishing trust with her new friends. “Anyone new from outside showing an interest in them is an exciting novelty. Most were very keen to have their photo taken, even fighting for my attention. But they can also get really upset out of blue, have argument with each other and not let you close to them. There are a lot of pacts between them — I noticed some would stop talking to each other, and then when I visited next time they were friends again.” Knizova's series reflects the struggles and pain of teenage years that we all go through, but also the strange emotional effect of living isolated from society. “They go through a lot of same things kids in a normal environment go through,” the photographer explains. “But because they are so segregated, all their social interactions, experiments and explorations happen within a very small collective.” 

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