5 Things We Know About The Viral Philippines’ Prison Photos

Filipino photographer Noel Celis’ photographs of overcrowding in Quezon City Jail in Manila were some of the most powerful images released this week.

The prison was built to hold 800 inmates, and now holds 3,800, according to AFP, but no descriptions compare to pictures straight out of Dante’s Inferno.

Celis shares some details from behind the scenes. 

1. Nothing was staged. One of the most noticeable things about Celis’s photographs is how painterly some of them look.

This prompted some accusations of staging, according to Celis, but he says they are works of photojournalism.

“Not a single picture is staged. It’s like hell inside. If you want to walk, inmates need to get up first to make a way for you,” says Celis. To silence his critics, Celis released a video on his Facebook page of prison overcrowding that he shot at the same time.

2. It felt like hell. Celis spent five days in the Philippine city of Tacloban after Super Typhoon Haiyan hit in 2013, …

(A photograph Celis took of a girl standing in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan made the cover of TIME magazine.).