Journal of Current Anthropology

Trapped Present, or the Capture(d) Affects of Imprisonment


Nicolás Díaz Letelier


This essay explores the everyday experience of time within the frame of captivity. Through a series of photographs jointly produced by the incarcerated men at Rapa Nui’s carceral facility -the so-called happiest prison in the world-, it describes how the quotidian constraints of a captured present are themselves eventful and how this can critically compromise one’s continuity in time. From the reflections of the imprisoned persons on the link between photographs and the narration of time, the photo essay argues that the photographs, as bodies beyond images, can act as perspectival hinges in which an encounter may occur, making the narration of time an affective possibility where experience can be held in common. Finally, it concludes by highlighting how time, just as it can be managed, bent, and distorted, can also go completely out of control, compromising the present in unforeseeable and sometimes devastating ways that bring forth the centrality of the unevenness of time in an unequal world.