Introduction / Andres Serrano

In 2005, The New York Times Magazine asked Andres Serrano to produce images of torture for the cover page and lead article What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Torture by Joseph Lelyveld. Ten years on, in 2015, Andres Serrano returned to the subject, producing his most largest body of work to date. Over the course of the year, Serrano gained access to a number of illicit objects, restricted sites and individuals. The photographs developed as a cabinet of curiosity, following the evolution of punitive and coercive techniques into its modern day manifestation.

At The Foundry, in the French industrial town of Maubourguet, Andres Serrano assumed the role of the torturer. Under the guidance of a former special forces interrogator, Serrano photographed more than 40 models in degrading positions, using devices that were produced on-site by local workers. The models suffered humiliation and actual physical distress as they were shackled, submerged in water and forced into stress positions for extended periods of time.

Adding to his restaging of torture scenes, Serrano explored the historical and contemporary contexts of torture through an examination of punishment, incarceration and interrogation. Visiting numerous museums and institutions across Europe housing collections of actual and replica torture implements, a cross section of objects were photographed from the medieval period through to the Victorian era. Serrano also documented historical sites pertaining to the Nazi Holocaust, Stasi prisons in the former GDR and Immigration Removal Centres in the UK. Through portraiture, Serrano photographed subjects exposed to and involved in the act of torture from the troubles in Northern Ireland through to the War on Terror. 

"It’s easy to torture people when you have power over them” Andres Serrano