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It’s rare one gets such a fine art look at incarceration. Lieven Nollet‘s images of Belgian prisons are contemplative set ups. The majority of his 50+ strong portfolio focuses on the fabric, wall textures, light and shadow of prison. Here I’ve selected three of his portraits, which I think hold attention the longest.

The same disquiet and still of Nollet’s interior studies continues in his shots of people. This isn’t quite Roger Ballen or David Lynch territory but Nollet’s photographs edge toward dark-chamber otherworldliness.

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Generally, anonymity reigns too, so I’m being a contrarian by selecting Nollet’s portraits. Crafted to seem outside of our reality and certainly outside of time, Nollet’s photography doesn’t give us a social justice narrative to latch on to, but they may provide an emotional response that has us decrying shady, forgotten corners of prisons. Some of Nollet’s frames resemble hospital and morgue interiors and I’m certainly left with a feeling that these spots off the map are reserved for quarantine and/or civil death.

For the sake of positioning the work, I’d say it has elements of Jean Gaumy‘s tight European jail photographs, the spiritual element of Danilo Murru‘s photographs of Sicilian prisons and, to a degree, the cool observances of Donovan Wylie.

One of the few humanising components of the work is the presence of birds. A few years back, I was speaking with a prisoner in Washington State who spoke of a sparrow that had lived in the rafters of his old cell block for months. The sparrow had not gone unnoticed by any prisoner and all were concerned for its wellbeing. At once anthropomorphised, the sparrow was seen as another victim of lockdown. The bird brought a slice of life to the cell tier, but no prisoner didn’t wish for its eventual escape.

When we see animals behind bars these days, it is usually down to a dog-training program news story. Such stories are gold for a local paper, but the dogs and the photographers are groomed for a neatly packaged tale. Before the economics of the prison industrial complex took a grip, many prisons operated their own farms and many with pasture, cows and milking parlors. Prisoners in Louisiana’s Angola Prison still today breed horses for the New Orleans Police Department. In dank and crumbling prisons, complaints about rodents are common; mice and rats about the ankles are a reminder of the hole prisoners are in, whereas birds becomes a symbols of, and connection to, the great beyond.

With phrases such as jailbird and “the caged bird sings,” avifauna metaphors may seem cliche to us on the outside, but I understand why a lot of prisoners’ creative writing turns to freedom as embodied by flight and birds. And I understand why they nurture them.

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All images: Lieven Nollet. See more at De Zwarte Panter

 

drone

“By definition, a government has no conscience. Sometimes it has a policy, but nothing more.”

— Albert Camus.

Photographer Tomas Van Houtryve puts the above quote top and center of his most recent artist statement. He believes that human activity becomes increasingly absurd and dangerous when it loses empathy.

Researching my latest WIRED piece Here’s What Drone Attacks in America Would Look Like about Van Houtryve’s Blue Sky Days, I was shocked by the number of civilians killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.

“The Obama administration doesn’t release a lot of details, so firm figures are hard to come by. But the Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates unmanned aerial vehicles have killed between 2,296 and 3,718 people, as many as 957 of them civilians,” I wrote.

President Obama’s Drone War is not widely discussed. Drones operate remotely and forge the very distance that prevents a critical look at their continued use. Drones dismantle empathy.

If a technology with extremely powerful spying and killing capabilities is shielded from public scrutiny there is bound to be abuse,” says Van Houtryve.

WHAT’S IN OUR WORLD?

Art can foster empathy. At least, that’s an aim of political art, no? There are many worthy projects that have co-opted and subverted drone visuals:

Jamie Bridle traces drone shadows in the streets and launched Dronestagram to populate social media with satellite views of drone strike sites; John Vigg surveilled drone research labs and airports; Trevor Paglen photographed drones at distance; Josh Begley’s App MetaData alerts users to drone strikes; and Raphaella Dallaporte took a drone to Afghanistan to do some archaeological surveying.

Most recently, a JR-inspired Inside Out project named Not A Bug Splat is tweaking the consciences of drone “pilots” by laying massive pictures of children in strike zones. However, the novelty (still) of these projects suggests we are not well-versed in drone operations.

WHAT’S IN A WORD?

Furthermore, I worry about how the definition of the word “drone” is shifting. When we hear “drone” do we think about military-grade killer robots or about newer domestic-use quadcopters?

The photo and video world has embraced smaller, non-lethal drones — we oohed and aahed at this aerial surf video and we protested when the police forced down a drone flown over a traffic accident by an off-duty photojournalist.

Soon, a small drone will be a part of every photographers kit.

Also, new legislation is being written to catch up with the technology and the proliferation of public drone ownership and operation. The FAA had self-appointed itself as the authority on drone use and looked disapprovingly at Joe Public sending lil’ aircraft up in the air. So, the FAA started sending out cease and desist letters and $10,000 fine threats.

The recipients — commercial photographers — weren’t threatening homeland security; they were mostly using camera-mounted drones to map agriculture, oil fields and the like. One commercial drone user, Raphael Pirker, challenged his fine in court. He won and nullified the FAA’s authority over him or any other drone operator.

“Pirker’s attorney maintained that the FAA could not simply declare a regulation without having a public notice-and-comment period. His argument went like this: Congress has delegated to its bureaucracy the authority to make rules, but when new regulations have a substantial impact on the general public, the government must have hearings and take comments,” wrote David Kravets for WIRED.

Until those hearings, it is a free-for-all. We must just hope that creepy idiots who want to spy through windows are the exception.

There’s a third player in the mix though. Between the everyday citizen and the military industrial complex are corporations. Who would bet against Amazon actually delivering your slippers by drone? Or Facebook delivering WiFi via drones to the entire globe in the next decade?

Overall, we hope that citizens retain access to the use of drones just as corporations and the state do. We hope citizens’ drone use is protected by laws similar to those allowing street photography on public thoroughfares.

NEW WORDS IN OUR WORLD

‘Drone’ is a new word in photography. ‘Selfie’ is a new word in photography too. In fact, the emergence of the two words was almost parallel.

The earliest usage of the word selfie can be traced to an ABC Online Australian internet forum, on 13 September 2002. Just seven weeks later, on November 3rd 2002, the first ever lethal U.S. drone strike hit Yemen, killing six.

At the turn of the millennium neither the words drone or selfie, as we know understand them, were in our lexicon. I’d argue the definition of both terms is ongoing apace, but for different reasons. Drone visuals and facts are obscured; we must search them out. Selfie visuals, on the other hand, are impossible to avoid.

At some level, the selfie provides the everyday citizen a type of agency and incorporates our foibles, connectedness, and our awkward relationships with social media. Selfies may not be inherently humanizing but they are individually created and do reflect human idiosyncrasy.

By comparison, drone scopes reduce humans to video-mediated targets. Drone visuals eradicate individuality and of course, very literally snuff out human life. The selfie is, spoken of at least, as a completely controllable form, whereas the drone is an apparatus of control. It’s bottom-up liberation vs. top-down oppression.

The drone and the selfie inhabit different ends of an image spectrum. Both in terms of production and consumption, the selfie is all us and the drone is all them. We know us well. We don’t know them at all.

That these are two of the main new words we are processing together as a culture is intriguing to me.

These are just thoughts out loud and may or may not lead to more fleshed out criticism, but the near-simultaneous emergence and widespread use of the words “drone” and “selfie” alongside their contrasting correlation to human consciousness in our remotely-networked globe might provide fodder for further investigation.

Cell_Cam_phoneshot

Usually when we hear of a photographer in jail we fear the worst. A foreign correspondent imprisoned; a street photographer detained in violation of civil liberties; a protest photographer swept up in riot police mass arrests.

Belgian photographer Sebastien Van Malleghem went to prison of his own free will. In fact, he was invited. Early this year, the authorities were preparing to open Beveren Prison, a new facility in the north of the country designed for 312 prisoners. Prior to the opening, the authority invited members of the press and criminal justice professionals to experience life inside. Joining Sebastien Van Malleghem in the temporary prison population were reporters, a TV crew, lawyers, a judge and even some prison guards. Collectively, they were guinea pigs to ensure the smooth running of the new state-of-the-art systems … which were not always smooth.

“We underestimated the influence of technology on the daily scheme of the prison,” said Beveren Prison spokesperson Els Van Herck. “Yesterday, it started already with the discharging of a visitor, a prison cell that wouldn’t open, and a lock that we had to drill out, as well as intercom systems that didn’t work thoroughly.”

Van Malleghem was locked up for three days. We talked. He recounted his “weird feelings.”

Q&A

Prison Photography (PP): You were on assignment?

Sebastien Van Malleghem (SVM): Yes, for De Standaard, a Flemish newspaper. I made 45 photographs and they published 10.

PP: You’ve photographed in prisons before.

SVM: Yes, in the prisons of Marneffe, Ghent, Nivelles, Namur, Ittre, Forest, Berkendaele, the now-demolished Verviers, and Paifve a prison for mentally-ill prisoners.

PP: How did Beveren compare?

SVM: There are many fences. Many doors. You can’t have clear vision, you can’t see any landscape. Vision is limited to, maybe, 15 meters. It is not going to be especially better for the minds of the prisoners. So I’m ambivalent about it.

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PP: In the past, you have shot in black and white (as opposed to your colleague Laure Geerts who photographed in colour) Why black and white here, too?

SVM: I took the option to do something really cold, clear and disturbing. To get at people’s emotion. In the beginning [my fellow prisoners] were smiling and I watched them to see how they would be after five hours being in a cell of 8-meters square. Obviously they were looking a bit stressed and tired.

My point of view was a tiny bit different from the others guest-prisoners because I had press authorization, so the door of my cell was a open a bit more to let me shoot some pictures.

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PP: What was your goal?

SVM: I was thinking about the prison riot. And why. The punishment of prison is to deny freedom. The punishment is not to give no freedom to your mind or to let you live inside these cold buildings without anything. Why not let prisoners have something more comfortable? They’re already outside of society.

You’re already inside of a prison with a full range of walls and a huge perimeter boundary with razor wired and electric fences. So, why not put inside something more human? That’s exactly what I’m fighting for.

PP: Better conditions?

SVM: There is no emotion. You go into a closed square, and then another one, and then another one. Squares and squares and squares. I’m not sure that prisoners will see more psychologists or people like that to help them [at Beveren].

PP: It’s a tightly controlled, sterile, modern prison. Small, clean boxes.

SVM: Why must we — in the 21st century — have jails like those in the middle ages. So small. When you need to eat and get your plate you just don’t have space to move your arm, space to turn around. You cannot open the window. There is a security system. You turn a button to get fresh air from outside but you can’t open the window. Suddenly, you just feel like you don’t even have space to fall forward.

While I was sleeping, the guards would come by every two hours. There is no agenda; they just come and check, open the little hatch in the door. You have no privacy.

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PP: How many people from the media went inside the prison?

SVM: I was with a writer, there was another photographer/writer team, two teams from a TV channel. Maybe, ten media persons.

It was training for the guards, to see what was wrong inside the prison. A journalist wrote that there were real problems.

PP: What is Prison Cloud?

SVM: There is a flat screen in each cell. In this new prison they wanted to try new “modern” things. Prison Cloud is a basically a kind of internet designed for prisoners. Keyboard, flatscreen, and the mouse. Prisoners can order a tiny bit more food or cigarettes and pay. Stuff is a bit more expensive but it’s easier for the prisoners to order through the computer. Also they have very restricted access to internet — only a few pages that they can go to such as the employment office, government websites. They can also order and pay for movies to watch.

When men enter inside the prison, they are fingerprinted and given a USB key where all their personal information is recorded. They need to put the USB key in the computer to gain access. The prison checks everything they’re doing on there.

PP: It sounds oppressive, but we’d expect that, no?

SVM: I deeply believe that a cell of 8-meters square makes you nervous and/or lazy. When you’re locked up, your thoughts turn quickly: “What’s my option in here?” You can struggle to stay in shape doing some exercise, reading books and keep your mind busy with some crazy plans that only your brain can imagine or just lose it all and spend your time laying on your bed.

From your cell, you can hear what’s happening in the wing, but you can’t see it and so you start to play stories in your head. The sounds of the voices and the steps of the guards are like an echo in your head. Always a background noise that could be compared to the type of headache that you catch when you’re tired.

PP: Your overall thoughts from the experience?

SVM: In this prison, it is as if the point of punishment is not only to separate a prisoner from freedom, but to box the prisoner in the smallest and the most claustrophobic space possible.

Follow Van Malleghem on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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Srey Neth and Lia move into the STAR House, a secondary transition home designed to help victims of sex trafficking to learn the skills to reintegrate into society without falling back to sex work. The teenagers are residents of Transitions Global and have experienced horrific physical and mental abuse largely at the hands of their fellow Cambodians. Photo: Tim Matsui, 2012 Women’s Initiative Grant Winner

The Alexia Foundation has opened its call for entries for the 2014 Women’s Initiative Grant.

There’s a lot of grants out there but the Alexia Foundation Women’s Initiative Grant is one of the best. Why? Firstly, it’s a large amount of money: $25,000. That’s the type of money needed to get at an issue in any depth. Secondly, the expectations are high. The winner has six months to produce the work and then is encouraged to plug in the product (and the lessons within) to a host of diverse media outlets. Thirdly, it is about women and their needs. When U.S. females earn 77 cents for every dollar a male earns; when women are trafficked worldwide; when women are bearing the brunt of holding together families and communities in the face of the prison industrial complex; when women face issues such as these and others which are part of routine gender violence, the Alexia Foundation is making it’s contribution to bring these issues to the table.

I am also a big fan of journalist Tim Matsui who was awarded the 2012 Women’s Initiative Grant. His project Leaving the Life is about domestic juvenile sex trafficking. Latest update here. A trailer for a film ‘The Long Night’ which accompanies the project and produced by MediaStorm can be viewed here.

Photojournalists worldwide are encouraged to apply to the Women’s Initiative Grant. Deadline: June 30, 2014.

From the press release:

Unlike the first Women’s Initiative grant, which specifically focused on abuse of women in the United States, this call for entries is intended to permit the photographer to propose a serious documentary photographic or multimedia project encompassing any issue involving women anywhere in the world.

While considering the idea of women’s issues, several themes have been suggested, including femininity and the culture of abuse; women making a difference, leading, changing things for the better; gender inequality; the direct connection to women and education, and the impact on birth rates, health of children and the productivity of the women; gender discrimination, women in leadership, women in the military, mental health issues. They are by no means intended to influence proposals, but they may help photographers start thinking about this topic.

The Alexia Foundation’s main purpose is to encourage and help photojournalists create stories that drive change. While our traditional grant guidelines put no limits on the subject matter for grant proposals, a number of proposals about women’s rights in the last few years have been so powerful that we have been compelled to create a grant specifically on issues relating to women.

Apply here.

Winner announced Sept. 1, 2014.
Winner has six months to complete project, by March 1, 2015.
Contact Eileen Mignoni at grants@alexiafoundation.org with any inquiries.

okprison

Yesterday, I listened to Margaret Winter, Associate Director of the ACLU National Prison Project, describe the “living nightmare” on Mississippi’s death row in 2002. Her words were visceral and painted an image, but of course no images exist.

On that death row, cells had no power. Men languished in “perpetual twilight without enough light to read.” Radios were silent. Summer temperatures soared to a life-threatening 120 degrees fahrenheit. Year-round, mosquitos from the surrounding swamps filled the cell-tiers at dawn and dusk. No toilets worked. The stench was unbearable. Every sense was under constant assault. Prisoners’ shrieks, sobs and babbling filled the air. Suicides and self-harm were routine and the prison officers maintained order with the deployment of pepper spray. The majority of the prisoners had severe mental illness, and of those that arrived in the unit sane, few were lucky to have the strength of mind to remain so.

If an individual treats an animal this way, they’re punished by law and yet in America our law sends people to wallow in such conditions and worse.

Attorney Winter explained that court-orders often provide legal professionals access into prisons that the media has been denied access for years, even decades. Class action litigation alongside advocacy and responsible reporting all contribute to a reliable view of prisons for the tax-paying public. That such deplorable conditions could exist in America in the 21st century surely makes the case for robust and independent monitoring of America’s prisons.

Winter and ACLU only became aware of the abuse after they received letters from dozens of men on death row. As I listened to Winter’s account, I thought back to a day earlier when I’d asked the same audience to consider not only what images they see of prisons, but also the images they do not see.

OKLAHOMA

Right now, Oklahoma is making a case-study of itself. Under the orders of new Dept. of Corrections Director Robert Patton, Oklahoma prisons now allow journalists to enter only with pen and paper. Apparently, the OK DOC has been “slammed” by over a dozen media requests. Slammed!?!? How low is the bar? No cameras or audio recording devices inside Oklahoma prisons.

Unsurprisingly, Patton cites security reasons. Who are we to argue? What do we, the uninformed public know about security? The tone is patronising. A healthy relationship between the press which serves the public and the administrations in control of our tax funded institutions would make me feel safer. This stinks.

The Tulsa World reports that Patton believes that the requirement to search the camera equipment diverts staff resources and time. He also fears images of sensitive security equipment wouldn’t end up in photos or videos.

“It is very staff intensive to process this type of equipment in and out of a facility. More importantly, we need to ensure that any security function not be recorded or filmed in a way that may jeopardize the safety of our facilities,” says DOC spokesman Jerry Massie.

All of this smacks of an institution stretched, stressed and flailing. And indeed it is. The Oklahoma prison system is overcrowded. To add to the pressure, OK has the lowest levels of staffing of any state. Moral is low and pay is lower. Oklahoma has created a tumorous prison machine that does not rehabilitate but just churns up prisoners and staff and spits them out the other side.

No one is doubting Patton’s job is tough, but making adversaries of the press is not any type of solution. If anything he should be using the press more to expose the fractured department and broken lives he’s having to manage.

Unfortunately, some panicked lawmakers in Oklahoma think more private prison contracts are the solution. Private prisons use under-qualified staff, warehouse prisoners for longer, cut corners, and treat humans as commodity. They are based on efficiency models. Trying to make prisons more efficient IS the problem. Patton and Oklahoma’s only solution is to rely on incarceration less. Patton must establish community supervision programs for those prosecuted by law — they are cheaper and more effective.

I urge Patton not to listen to calls for extended privatisation and to put human needs ahead of budget needs. If he doesn’t, he’ll exacerbate the problem and fail the people of Oklahoma to whom he is (theoretically, at least) in service. By banning cameras and story-telling equipment, Patton will only succeed in alienating Oklahomans further.

This Tulsa World editorial hits the nail on the head: “This is no way to treat taxpayers who pony up a half-billion dollars annually to keep their prisons operating.”

FIRST HAND ACCOUNT

If I cannot convince you, perhaps a concerned Oklahoman might? I recently received this email from the loved one of a man imprisoned in Oklahoma.

“I’m aware that a camera inside, in the hands of a loved one, a visitor, is never going to happen. But journalism? Journalism is a must. I recently sent my loved one an article in print. It was about a prizewinning author who is incarcerated for life. The prison mail-guard and the contraband review board withheld that piece. Destroyed it. When I pressed, the reason given was that it contained a photographic image of a prisoner!

Photography is powerful. I imagine what my partner would capture if I could give him a camera — the haunted and defeated look in the eyes, the conditions inside the giant quonset hut housing 66 men in 33 bunk-beds.

Oklahoma has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, and one of the highest uses of for-profit prisons. And now no one can take a photo inside? Dangerous stuff.”

This source asked to remain anonymous in order to protect her partner from any punitive response by the DOC.

Image: Seniors Walking Across America.

 

princetonposter

I’ll be partaking in the student-organised prison reform SPEAR Conference this weekend. If you’re in or near New Jersey think about stopping by. Some very knowledgable thinkers, doers, journalists and activists will be convening. Below is the program.

BUILDING A NEW CRIMINAL JUSTICE: MOBILIZING STUDENTS FOR REFORM

April 4-5, 2014
, Princeton University

Friday

1:00pm. Opening Address:
 Marc Mauer, Executive Director of the Sentencing Project.

2:15pm. Panel 1: Academic Research on Incarceration. Brings together academics from a range of disciplines to discuss their research on mass incarceration.

Emily Owens, Associate Professor, Department of Criminology, University of Pennsylvania
; Charles Loeffler, Jerry Lee Asst. Professor of Criminology, University of Pennsylvania.

Kiminori Nakamura, Asst. Professor, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Maryland; 
Jill Witmer Sinha, Asst. Professor, Rutgers School of Social Work. Moderator: Imani Perry, Professor, Princeton University Center for African American Studies.

4:30pm – 6 pm. Panel 2: Alternative Approaches to Prison Reform. Exploring alternative approaches to prisoner education and reentry programs through arts, entrepreneurship, job training, and urban farming.

Bert Smith, CEO, Prison Entrepreneurship Program; 
Pete Brook, Writer-editor-blogger, Prison Photography; Francis Lawn and Diane Cornman-Levy, Roots to Reentry; Charles Rosen, Founder, New Ark Farms.

7:30pm. Film Screening – The House I Live In, followed by discussion with Eugene Jarecki, filmmaker; and Chris Hedges, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist.

Saturday

9:30am – 10:50am. Panel 3: Prison Education. Brings together various perspectives on prison education, ranging from participant, to teacher, to policymaker.

Terrell Blount, Mountainview Program graduate
; Fred Patrick, Director of the Pathways Project, Vera Institute; 
Max Kenner, Bard Prison Initiative.

11:00-12:00pm. Workshop A: Getting Involved. How to implement and improve educational programs between your university and local correctional facilities.

Jim Farrin, Executive Director; Petey Greene Prisoner Assistance Program; Jecrois Jean-Baptiste, Education Director, NJDOC.

Workshops B and C: In the Classroom. How to tutor effectively in prisons, with current/former students and volunteers.

Terrell Blount, Mountainview Program
; David Hammer, Petey Greene Prisoner Assistance Program; 
Sara Blair Matthews, Bucknell University
; Danielle Rousseau, Director, Boston University Prison Education Program; Jim Matesanz, Field Coordinator, Boston University Prison Education Program.

Workshop D: Reentry Programs. Discussing entrepreneurship programs and other reentry projects.

Dennis Porter, Founder, Prodigal Sons and Daughters; Bert Smith, CEO, Prison Entrepreneurship Program

1:30-2:50pm. Panel 4: Prison Advocacy

After learning about academic approaches and educational programs, what political steps can we take to make our voices heard and affect policy-makers’ decisions?

Liliana Segura, Editor, The Intercept, First Look Media
; Margaret Winter, Associate Director of the National Prison Project, ACLU Jeremy Haile, Federal Advocacy Council, The Sentencing Project.

3:00-4:00pm. Workshops E + F: Affecting Policy Change

How to campaign, lobby state and federal representatives, etc. Jeremy Haile, Federal Advocacy Council, The Sentencing Project; Margaret Winter, Associate Director of the National Prison Project, ACLU; Alan Rosenthal, Leadership at the Center for Community Alternatives; Scott Welfel, Staff Attorney and Skadden Fellow, New Jersey Institute of Social Justice

Workshop G: How to Make Your Voice Heard

How to use various forms of media and journalism in order to begin engaging and effective conversations.
Liliana Segura, The Intercept, First Look Media; Pete Brook, Prison Photography.

5:30 – 7:00pm. Closing Address: 
Jim McGreevey,
 Executive Director, Jersey City Employment and Training Program Jobs Former Governor of New Jersey

SPEARconference

tigerbeat

Photo by Tigerbeat. Used without permission.

On Sunday 16th March, I spoke at the Bearing Witness photo symposium organised by SFMoMA. The video is now online. I haven’t watched it. My love of talking is matched by my fear of hearing myself talk. After the event people said nice things. I don’t think my frantic back-and-forth across the stage put too many people off. It was the largest crowd to which I’ve presented. If you think I’m out of breath for the first 5 minutes, it’s because I am. I sprinted around the back of the auditorium during Erin O’Toole’s introduction to ensure I was stage left and not stage right, or stage wrong.

I’d like to thank Erin for extending the invitation to speak. Big thanks to Malia Rose who coordinated many of the details and kept things sane.

When you click through on this link, my talk What Can Photography Do For Prison Reform? is at the beginning of ‘Session 2.’ Also in the line up are Margaret Olin, Susan Meiselas, Zoe Strauss, Ben Lowy and Kathy Ryan.

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Jane Lindsay‘s exhibition From the Outside In: Sustenance and Time closes at the Northlight Gallery on the Arizona State University’s Tempe campus, this coming Saturday, the 29th. Try to make it if you can.

Lindsay has transformed the space with a multimedia installation of photographs and video within and around a modified jail cell and a dinner table. It’s intended to be an environment in which the discussion of complex and emotionally charged issues of safety, justice, civil liberties and social responsibility is supported.

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The meditative space includes framed and light-box portraits, prison art and letters as well as the products from light painting and art workshops as well as extended discussion with prisoners at the Pinal County Adult Detention Center about food security, nutrition and agribusiness.

‘Why are they talking about food?’ you might ask. Well apart form the fact that nutritious food is not guaranteed in many U.S. prisons, food is a foundational part of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Lindsay believes a person’s ability to fulfill his or her basic needs of food, shelter and a sense of belonging directly influences their potential. Furthermore, if and when these needs are uncertain, teachable skills and coping mechanisms will either support positive development toward self-actualization or distort such development.

Lindsay is calling for balanced lives and balanced views.

(More of the project on Lindsay’s website here.)

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Lindsay’s work is replete with compassion. I had the pleasure to meet and speak with her in 2011. Out of that meeting, I invited her to exhibit her work Gems in my co-curated show Cruel and Unusual at Noordelricht Photo Gallery in Groningen, Netherlands. Lindsay is no bleeding heart liberal, though. She has a strong moral compass and her work ties issues of transgression and social ills to poverty and inequality. We need such complex appreciation of complex issues. She also has every excuse to be angry, afraid and vengeful. Some years ago, a close member of her family was brutally assaulted and the recovery for all was tortuous. It is likely still ongoing.

For Lindsay, the the judicial process that purports to hand down justice, was more trauma. The perpetrator was convicted, but the sentence gave Lindsay no peace. She saw that prison — in most cases — rarely addresses the underlying issues of poverty, mentorship, security and social inequity she identifies to be at the core of criminal behavior.

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To quote the press release, From the Outside In: Sustenance and Time employs the theme of the family meal to represent the sustenance both literally in the form of food and figuratively in the sense of belonging created within the community and within the home around the dinner table. Lindsay urges audiences to reconsider the roll of the family and civil society as well as definitions of victim and perpetrator.

Lindsay worked as a Licensed Professional Counselor for 15 years in Texas. Her clients included victims and people who were on parole and probation. Since returning to college as a mature grad, Lindsay has pursued art that tackles education, mutual respect and responsibility. Crucially her work directly involves prisoners, families and even detention officers.

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“By involving prisoners and their families in self-actualization through creativity, society is directly influenced, the outside world becoming a safer place for everyone,” explains Lindsay. “The inclusive nature of the project promotes agency of the prisoners, presenting them not just as subjects, but also as direct contributors to the telling of their story.

With the aid of Detention Officer Sandra Price, Lindsay developed the program to include 25 prisoners, both female and male, who were serving time accused of drug offenses, theft or violent crimes.

“A vast majority of our inmates behind bars have the skills and talents needed to succeed in life and pursue their dreams. Unfortunately, because they have committed a crime, their dreams were temporarily put on hold,” says Sheriff Paul Babeu in the Northlight Gallery press release. “When they are successful in society it greatly reduces their likeliness of reoffending.”

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JANE LINDSAY

Lindsay received an MFA in photography from Arizona State University. She moved to Arizona from rural West Texas where she worked as a counselor, social worker and investigator. She has shown her work in several venues including, Texas Photograph Society, Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock Texas, Cooper Grand Hall in New York, Photoville in New York, Noorderlicht Photography Gallery, and North Light Gallery in Tempe, Arizona. Her short film “Dan’s Big Find” recently won the Arizona award in the Arizona International Film Festival. Jane teaches photography at Mesa Community College and she is a TA at ASU.

PHOTO TAPAS

From the Outside In: Sustenance and Time is exhibited as part of PhotoTapas, a statewide Arizona celebration of photography that involves the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, alternative art spaces such as the Ice House in Phoenix, as well as ASU’s Northlight Gallery.

EMAIL

prisonphotography [at] gmail [dot] com

@BROOKPETE ON TWITTER

  • RT @Piper: @brookpete & LGBT youth incarceration not driven by involvement in serious crimes - homelessness, "public order" violations, sho… 2 hours ago
  • Me too. Sorry @Piper, I couldn't face the loooong line to get #OITNB signed, but I'll still be gifting it to my mum for her birthday! 2 hours ago
  • RT @Piper: @brookpete Sad not to meet U!!! It's actually: LGBT youth disproportionately likely to be locked up & the girls most of all. 2 hours ago
  • RT @oregonfoodbank: Sign up to volunteer with us for @StampOutHunger - the largest one-day food drive in the U.S. - on May 10! Details: ht… 3 hours ago

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