Alessandro Penso (b.1978, Italy) studied clinical psychology at Rome’s La Sapienza University. In 2007, he received a scholarship to study photojournalism at the “Scuola Romana di Fotografia”. Since completing his studies, his work has won several awards, including the PDN Photo Annual Award, Px3, the Project Launch Award in Santa Fe 2011, the Terry O’ Neill TAG Award 2012, and the Sofa Global award 2013. Alessandro’s work has appeared in Stern Magazine, The Guardian, BBC, The New York Times, Businessweek, Time Magazine, the International Herald Tribune, Human Rights Watch, L’Espresso, Internazionale, D di Repubblica, Vanity Fair Italia, El Periodico, Le journal de la photographie and Ekathimerini.
About the Photograph:
“This photograph is part of a reportage project entitled Big Prison. In 2009, I traveled to the island of Malta to start a long-term project on immigration in the Mediterranean, which I have now been working on for four years. Malta is not just a small Mediterranean island, but a member state of the European Union. For this reason, it is at the center of routes for migrants, most of whom come from Africa. Many people aren’t aware that Malta does not actually represent a stopping point, but is mainly a place that travelers trying to reach Italy just end up stuck in.”
“As soon as I arrived in Malta, the tragic reality that migrants are forced to endure became clear to me. Newly arrived migrants are transferred to a detention center where, as well as being recorded, they undergo interrogations and medical checks for up to 18 months. After this, those considered suitable are moved to the so-called welcome centers. Here, migrants are checked by the authorities and access is only allowed with a permit. Life is monotonous. It is very difficult to create any alternatives on a small island like Malta, where there is no real integration program. Further, according to European legislation such as Dublin II, these young people cannot leave the island, so they find themselves stuck in what seems, in the end, like a big prison.”