Photos from Stasiland

Stasi — Secret Rooms is a 10-year project by Daniel and Geo Fuchs, who took beautiful, striking photos of the stark interiors of the spaces used by the Stasi, the terrifying secret police from the former East Germany.

The sterility of the photos, especially the images of prisoner bedrooms, hints at the degree to which the Stasi kept a tight lid on dissenters. In prison culture (or at least prison culture as it's portrayed in the movies), there's a lot of graffiti: on the walls, in library books, between cells. "We were searching for any scratching or anything in the cells—usually you would think they were sending messages—but it was very clear you couldn't see anything," Geo Fuchs says. The police weren't exempt from the systemic fear either: Even the officer's rooms at headquarters have an antiseptic design, as if to quash any individuality or imagination.

The pair also added additional sterility to the photos, by carefully and consistently measuring the distance between the camera, floor, and vanishing point for each photograph. That conformity is a tool, providing the viewer the same boxed-in feeling someone might experience in the cramped visitor room, or a prisoner might feel beneath the spotlights of an interrogation room. It is meant to be oppressive, Geo Fuchs says. "You shouldn't feel good in these rooms."

The Eerie Architecture of East Germany's Secret Police [Margaret Rhodes/Wired]