They say necessity is the mother of invention – and there are few so desperate as those sent for years to (or serving life sentences) in prisons around the world. From weapons to tools of escape, prisoners have a long tradition of turning ordinary objects into creative constructions – in short: they are perhaps the ultimate upcyclers. Masters of disguise as well, those locked behind iron bars and concrete walls have also learned to conceal the nature of their creations – making escape ladders look (albeit remotely) like chess sets and grappling hooks like candelabras.
German photographer Marc Steinmetz has captured some of the more clever designs of select German prisoners from the last 100 years, which reflect technologies of the times as well as jail rules from generation to generation. The weapons pictured above, for example, range from low-tech saws to remarkably complex working guns. The longer gun shown above was made to be triggered by an AA battery and broken light bulb. Between access to work and metal craft shops and simple in-cell ingenuity it is amazing what prisoners have managed to come up with. The next time you start a do-it-yourself project and think you need more tools – think twice.