Julia Schönstädt 16 Bars Project


Claudia - 4 Years "After my second therapy I was supposed to formulate goals. I had major difficulties with that and after thinking long and hard, the only thing I could think of was – I wanted to stay alive!”


Harry - 1 Year "We are all hidden away. We are cut off by society and it’s not society’s problem.”


KEVIN - 1.8 Years "We are also just human. We made mistakes in our lives. But a human being remains a human being."


Martina - 7 Years "I experienced jail more than degrading. I’m still in therapy because of that today.”


Oliver - Life Sentence "It is a part of my life. I don’t think that I can ever take that weight off me. It is a debt that cannot be cleared.”


Tom - 1 Year "I often looked into the mirror and wondered ‘who are you? You are a cruel piece of shit!’ I often thought that.”


Tomasz - 9 Years, 6 Months "I am aware of my guilt. I don’t play it down but when you are clear about why you are here then it’s much easier to tak


Volkert - 13 Years "When you hear that you are supposed to spend 13 years inside prison, you get to the point where you wonder if it’s really worth continuing to live.”


The 16 BARS PROJECT aims to help young vulnerable minds to stay out of prison and to create awareness of the subject matter with the help of art.

The aim is to create a dialogue between prisoners and society at large, enabling an eye-level encounter.

Black and white portraits are the starting point of of the visual exploration, challenging a confrontation with the individual and preconceptions of the subjects. Prisoners often mention a sensation of not only being locked up but also feelings of absolute abandonment. This project aims to overcome exactly this adandoning and forgetting. Additional interviews expand into the emotional world of the (ex)-prisoners with their biography. But not only their own personal stories are being focus of attention, we also observe a broad reflection upon all sides that are part of that process, like victims and judiciary.


All images © courtesy of Julia Schönstädt