David, DJ at the prison radio station holds a Polaroid of him and his wife. He said the picture was taken more than 15 years before, when he was 18 and she was 16 years old. During his hour as DJ he played mostly Gospel and Christian music at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola,  June 27, 2000.

Photographer, writer and psychotherapist Adam Shemper and I talk about his portraits and photographs from Louisiana State Penitentiary.

LISTEN TO OUR DISCUSSION AT THE PRISON PHOTOGRAPHY PODBEAN PAGE.

At the age of 24, Adam was challenged (almost dared) by a family friend to “experience something real.” The friend offered him an introduction to warden Burl Cain and the test to photograph within Angola Prison.

We all have difficulty putting our work out in the world, and Adam found that after his nine-month stint at Angola he had more questions than answers.

For many years the work remained unpublished and Adam’s own justifications for the work unsteady. We discuss the life-cycle of the photographs, the reactions of the prisoners to Shemper and his work, and generally, the responsibilities of photographers toward their subjects.

In photography, as in life, it is all about relationships and positive connections that benefit all parties.

Victor Jackson, cell block A, upper right, cell #4. He had ‘I Love U Mom,’ tattooed on the inside of his right forearm. Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, April 17, 2000.

LaTroy Clark, cell block A, upper left, cell #6, Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, April 17, 2000

Don Jordan reads the Bible in his cell, Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, April 17, 2000

Jonathan Ennis puts a puzzle together of a farm scene in Ward 2 of the Louisiana State Penitentiary hospice at Angola, March 21, 2000.

A man sleeping during the day in the main prison complex, camp F dormitory, Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, February 1, 2000.

Henry Kimball and Terry Mays in cell block A, upper right section, cell #15, Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, September 6, 2000.

Brian Citrey, main prison, cell block A, upper right, Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, April 17, 2000

Nolan, a prison trustee, standing in front of the lake, where he often spends his days fishing. He caught catfish and shad on this day for the warden and his guests. Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola,  June 27, 2000.

Man cuts open sacks of vegetables to sort through, Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, June 27, 2000

After chopping weeds in the fields, men wash up as they transition back to their cell blocks at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, April 17, 2000.

Men housed at prison camp C dig a ditch at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola,  January 31, 2000.

All images © Adam Shemper.

Images may not be reproduced elsewhere on the web or in print without sole permission of the photographer, Adam Shemper.

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