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Update 05.11.2014: The Eventbrite registration page has been closed after 80 sign-ups. But, there’s space for walk-ins and allcomers. We don’t want to turn anyone away!

Email info@asocialpractice.com to extend your interest. Thanks.

A BIG PUBLIC CHAT

Next Friday, May 16th, as part of the Open Engagement conference, I’ll be part of a conversation about photography based art and social practice.

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The Photo-Based Social Practice panel and group brainstorming is at the Aperture Gallery in New York, 10am – 12 noon.

Moderator Eliza Gregory along with panelists Gemma-Rose Turnbull, Mark Strandquist, Wendy Ewald and I will be discussing socially engaged, transdisciplinary, and expanded practices in contemporary photography.

Highfalutin, huh? Not really. The language is big, but the query is simple. Can photography build community and empower subjects? How can photography be nice?

It’s free, but preregistration is required. Do that HERE (6th option on the list).

We’re only going to do the briefest of introductions to our work before breaking into groups to tackle a host of questions that deal with audience, relevance and good design. It only makes sense that we collaborate to tackle answers to these issues.

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We hope that the panel will follow nicely on from December’s Collaboration: Revisiting the History of Photography event that crowdsourced a new timeline of photo-history by focusing on projects with communities and groups as creators. I love the ideas involved in that.

While the Collaboration: Revisiting the History of Photography event gave new recognition to old projects and while it presented a new timeline and framework, it didn’t tackle best practices. From the projects it unearthed we can surmise the nature of some socially responsible projects, methodologies and motivations. In our discussion next week we hope to extend the conversation further and start to define common language, and potentially best practices, for socially engaged photography projects.

Please join us and help us along!

LOCATION, DATE, TIME

Aperture Gallery and Bookstore
547 West 27th Street, New York
10:00 am – 12:00 pm, Friday, May 16th.
FREE WITH REGISTRATION

NEW VENTURE! ‘PHOTOGRAPHY AS A SOCIAL PRACTICE’

Now is a good time to mention a joint venture recently started by my fellow panelists, Eliza Gregory, Gemma-Rose Turnbull and Mark Strandquist.

Photography As A Social Practice is a website for reference tools, teaching tools, and conversation about the intersection of social practice and photography. I’ll be contributing every so often and chatting on the phone about content. You can suggest resources by emailing info[at]asocialpractice[dot]com

SPONSORS

The panel is offered in conjunction with the Magnum Foundation and the Aperture Foundation who combined to publish Documentary, Expanded, the Spring Issue (#214) of Aperture Magazine as part of the Photography, Expanded initiative. Support also comes from the Open Society Documentary Photography ProjectThe School of Journalism and Communication (University of Queensland) and Portland State University‘s Art and Social Practice Program.

OPEN ENGAGEMENT, 2014

The Photo-Based Social Practice panel is part of Open Engagement, an international conference that sets out to explore various perspectives on art and social practice, and expand the dialogue around socially engaged art-making. This year, the conference addresses the theme of Life/Work. It is 2 days of programming (Sat, May 17 – Sun, May 18) at the Queens Museum, plus 1 day of pre-conference events on Fri 16th at different locations around the New York boroughs.

bryan wolf-M9-eclipse watchers copy
Bryan Wolf, “Eclipse watchers” (Grid M9).

On Saturday, my article The Grid Project: A Photo-Survey of Portland was published in The Oregonian. It was my first ever piece for The Oregonian, a paper which was founded in 1850 and predates official Oregon statehood which came about in 1859.

I wrote: “In 1995, Christopher Rauschenberg assembled a team of a dozen photography enthusiasts. Together, they sliced up a AAA map of Portland into square mile segments and resolved to hit the streets of each corresponding square and photograph, once a month, until no more squares remained. By 2004, they had documented all 89 squares within the city limits. At that time, the only thing to do was to start over. In September of this year, the Grid Project will complete its second full photo-survey of the Rose City.”

I wrote the article because The Grid Project is raising Kickstarter cash to replace its old, limited-function website with a new-spangly site with full on search, more images and happy-wide-eyed-users. With four days to go, just over $600 more is needed, so it looks like it’s going to make it.

When I arrived in Portland 18 months ago, folks at the Grid Project were some of the first I wanted to meet. Even though I don’t shoot photographs they let me join them for a meeting and look over images. Many of the Gridders are now friends.

The Grid Project is amazing. Here’s why:

1. It’s all about community.

2. It’s done for the love of photography; no one’s getting paid.

3 It’s a simple premise, but collectively 20 or so photographers have documented a changing Portland over nearly two decades. The estimated 40,000 images they’ve made is an incredible resource.

4. The Portland Grid Project invented the formula. The methodology has since been repeated around the globe in towns and cities such as Bradford, England; Toronto, Canada; Vancouver, WA; Victoria, BC; Rome, Italy; Providence, RI; Eugene, OR; Central Oregon; Napa Valley, CA; Philadelphia, PA; Forest Grove OR and Santa Fe, NM.

If you fancy a fancy print you should throw some money in the pot. Here’s some fine Grid Project images to stroke your eyeballs

Ann Kendellen, Pendleton Park, SW 53rd and Iowa, January 2011 (Grid N6) copy
Ann Kendellen, Pendleton Park, SW 53rd and Iowa, January 2011 (Grid N6).
BlakeAndrews, 2007, (Grid J12) copy
BlakeAndrews, 2007, (Grid J12).
Bruce Hall, Kid on the Sandy Blvd overpass for the 205 freeway, (Grid J12) copy
Bruce Hall, Kid on the Sandy Blvd overpass for the 205 freeway, (Grid J12).
CaroleGlauber FrankiesFranks copy
Carole Glauber. “Frankie’s Franks” SE 82nd, 2011.
ChristopherRaushenbergL9 copy
Christopher Rauschenberg, SE 15th Avenue, 2008 (Grid L9).
David Potter. %22Inside of Marci MacFarlane's car%22 North Interstate Avenue and Going Street, May 29th, 2005 (Grid J8) copy
David Potter. “Inside of Marci MacFarlane’s car” North Interstate Avenue and Going Street, May 29th, 2005 (Grid J8).
Lisa Gidley. NE 42nd Avenue near Sumner Street, September 2011 copy
Lisa Gidley. NE 42nd Avenue near Sumner Street, September 2011.
Nancy Butler (Grid N9) copy
Nancy Butler, “Untitled” (Grid N9).

Bruce Hall, Off of NE Fremont, (Grid K11) copy

Bruce Hall, Off NE Fremont, (Grid K11).
Mark Barnes Jessie
Mark Barnes, “Jessie”
Mark Barnes Foster Rd copy
Mark Barnes, “Foster Rd”
Rich Rollins
Rich Rollins
Lisa Gidley
Lisa Gidley
Ann Kendellen
Ann Kendellen
Ann Kendellen
Ann Kendellen
Faulkner Short
Faulkner Short
Barbara Gilson
Barbara Gilson
Alexis Pike
Alexis Pike
Patrick Stearns
Patrick Stearns (one image in a set of three) (Grid K8, 04/99).
David Potter
David Potter, (M14, August 2000).
George Kelly
George Kelly
Patrick Stearns
Patrick Stearns (one image in a set of three) (Grid G4, 04/00)
Faulkner Short
Faulkner Short

Eye On PDX is an ongoing series of profiles of photographers based in Portland, Oregon. See past Eye On PDX profiles here and here.

Isolation exercise yard, Security Housing Unit, Pelican Bay, Crescent City, California, a supermax-type control, high security facility said to house California’s most dangerous prisoners. © Richard Ross

Solitary confinement is in the news … for lots of reasons – a lawsuit brought by prisoners against the Federal Bureau of Prisons; a lawsuit brought by 10 prisoners in solitary against the state of California; a June Senate hearing on the psychological and human rights implications of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons (which included the fabrication of a replica sized AdSeg cell in the courtroom); an ACLU report pegging solitary as human rights abuse; a NYCLU report showing arbitrary use of solitary, a NYT Op-Ed by Lisa Guenther; the rising use of solitary at immigration detention centres; and the United Nations’ announcement that solitary is torture.

Recently, journalists from across America have contacted me looking for photographs of solitary confinement to accompany their article. I could only think of three photographers – one of whom wishes to remain anonymous; another, Stefan Ruiz is not releasing his images yet; which leaves Richard Ross‘ work which is well known.

Stefan Ruiz’ photographs of Pelican Bay State Prison, CA made in 1995 for use as court evidence. (See full Prison Photography interview with Ruiz here.)

With a seeming paucity, I went in search of other images. I found an image of a “therapy session” by Lucy Nicholson from her Reuters photo essay Inside San Quentin. A scene that has been taken to task by psychologist and political image blogger Michael Shaw.

Shane Bauer took a camera inside Pelican Bay for his recent Mother Jones report on solitary confinement.

Rich Pedroncelli for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Pelican Bay has been hosting media tours and welcoming journalists in the past year – partly due to public pressure and partly through a strategic shift by the CDCR to appear to be responding to public outcry. Maybe the courts have had a say, too?

© Lucy Nicholson / Reuters. Prisoners of San Quentin’s AdSeg unit in group therapy. (Source)

© Shane Bauer. Pelican Bay SHU cell. (Source)

© Shane Bauer. CA CDCR employees show investigative journalist Shane Bauer the Pelcian Bay SHU “Dog run.” (Source)

Correctional Officer Lt. Christopher Acosta is seen in the exercise area in the Secure Housing Unit at the Pelican Bay State Prison near Crescent City, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011. State prison officials allowed the media to tour Pelican’ Bay’s secure housing unit, known as the SHU, where inmates are isolated for 22 1/2 hours a day in windowless, soundproofed cells to counter allegations of mistreatment made during an inmate hunger strike last month. Photo: Rich Pedroncelli, AP/SF (Source)

The amount of visual evidence still seems limited. It’s not that reporting on solitary confinement is lax or missing. To the contrary, I’ve listed at the foot of this piece some excellent recent journalism on the issue form the past year. We lack images.

Look Inside A Supermax a piece done with text and not images is typical of the invisibility of these sites. National Geographic tried a couple of years to bring solitary confinement to a screen near you. ABC News journalist Dan Harris spent the “two worst days of his life” in solitary to report the issue.

Why do we need to see these super-locked facilities? Well, depending on your sources there are between 15,000 and 80,000 people held in isolation daily (definitions of isolation differ). My conservative estimate is that 20,000 men, women and children are held in single occupancy cells 23 hours a day.

Gabriel Reyes, prisoner at Pelican Bay SHU writes about his experience for the San Francisco Chronicle:

“For the past 16 years, I have spent at least 22 1/2 hours of every day completely isolated within a tiny, windowless cell. [...] The circumstances of my case are not unique; in fact, about a third of Pelican Bay’s 3,400 prisoners are in solitary confinement; more than 500 have been there for 10 years, including 78 who have been here for more than 20 years.”

Solitary confinement is a “living death”; an isolating “gray box” and “life in a black hole.” Imagine locking yourself in a space the size of your bathroom for 23 hours a day. As James Ridgeway, currently the most prolific and reliable reporter on American solitary confinement, writes:

“A growing body of academic research suggests that solitary confinement can cause severe psychological damage, and may in fact increase both violent behavior and suicide rates among prisoners. In recent years, criminal justice reformers and human rights and civil liberties advocates have increasingly questioned the widespread and routine use of solitary confinement in America’s prisons and jails, and states from Maine to Mississippi have taken steps to reduce the number of inmates they hold in isolation.”

The over zealous and under regulated use of solitary confinement to control risk and populations within U.S. prisons is a cancer within already broken corrections systems. I’m posting a few more image that Google images afforded me – but I urge caution – these are just a glimpse and may not be indicative of solitary/SHU conditions. Windows are a rarity in solitary despite three images below showing them.

The main reason I’m posting here is to ask for your help in sourcing all the photography of U.S. solitary confinement we can. Please post links in the comments section and I’ll add them to the article as time goes on.

SELECT IMAGES

© Alice Lynd. Front view of cell D1-119. Todd Ashker has been in a Security Housing Unit (SHU) for more than 25 years, since August 1986, and in the Pelican Bay SHU nearly 22 years, since May 2, 1990. “The locked tray slot is where I get my food trays, mail.” (Source)

A typical special housing unit (SHU) cell for two prisoners, in use at Upstate Correctional Facility and SHU 20.0.s in New York. Photo: Unknown. (Source)

Bunk in Secure Housing Unit cell, Pelican Bay, California © Rina Palta/KALW. (Source)

Solitary Confinement at the Carter Youth Facility. Since the arrival of the girls’ program at Carter, the administration has created a new seclusion cell. This cell contains no pillow, sheet, pillow case or blanket. In fact, there is nothing in the cell other than a mattress, which was added after numerous requests from the monitor. Girls are routinely placed in this room for “time out.” Photo: Maryland Juvenile Justice Monitoring Unit. (Source)

© Rina Palta, KALW. “More than 3,000 prisoners in California endure inhuman conditions in solitary confinement.” This photo, taken in August 2011 of a corridor inside the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison, illustrated Amnesty’s report. (Source)

© National Geographic. In Colorado State Penitentiary  756 inmates are held in “administrative segregation” alone in their cells for 23 hours a day. 5 times a week they are allowed into the rec room where they can exercise and breath fresh air through a grated window. (Source)

FURTHER READING

Eddie Griffin, prisoner in s Supermax prison in Marion, IL writes about “Breaking Men’s Minds” [PDF.]
Boxed In NYCLU campaign and report with resources and video against use of solitary confinement. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
The Gray Box, an investigative journalism series and film about solitary across the U.S., by Susan Greene. (Dart Society) HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
ACLU – Stop Solitary Confinement – Resources - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED 
ACLU _ State specific reports on solitary confinement
Andrew Cohen’s three part series on “The American Gulag” (Atlantic)
Atul Gawande’s take on the psychological impacts of solitary confinement (New Yorker)
Sharon Shalev, author of  Supermax: Controlling Risk Through Solitary Confinement, here writes about conditions. (New Humanist)
The shocking abuse of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons (Amnesty)

Solitary confinement policies in California revised yet again as inmate leaders promote end to racial hostilities

SOLITARY ELSEWHERE ON PRISON PHOTOGRAPHY

Interview with Isaac Ontiveros, Director of Communications with Critical Resistance, about Pelican Bay solitary and community activism.
The invention of solitary confinement.
RIGO 23, Michelle Vignes, the Black Panthers and Leonard Peltier
Chilean Miners, Russian Cosmonauts and 20,000 American Prisoners
Robert King, of the Angola 3, writes for the Guardian

‘Steph’ © Tony Foushe

There’s two things I hope you’ll carry away from this post. Firstly, the importance of Live Through This a photo series resulting from a-two year collaboration between Tony Fouhse and Stephanie. Secondly, that Tony has established  Straylight Press to get limited-edition books and zines in the hands of photo-lovers. Live Through This is Straylight’s first publication.

To regular readers, Tony Fouhse will not be a new name. I’ve always admired Tony’s honest, weekly updates about his ongoing work, emotions and process. In my capacity as a Wired.com blogger, I recommended his blog drool as a top read.

LIVE THROUGH THIS

Four years ago, Tony began shooting USER, portraits of crack and heroin addicts on a single Ottawa city block. During that time, he met Stephanie, noticed something different about her, and asked, “Is there anything I can do to help?” She said she wanted help getting clean.

From that point it’s a long story of great-strides, trauma, dope sickness, humour, sunlight and friendship. Often photographers may distance themselves from the world by saying they’re mere observers. In the case of photojournalism, so-called objectivity sometimes excuses camera-persons from getting involved in even small practical ways to help those they photograph.

Tony is not a photojournalist and he is no hero either; he’s a guy that offered to help someone whose needs were greater than most. If you want to venture into the drool archives, Tony has told the story in great detail. Alternatively, Tony wrote a five-part series about his and Steph’s journey for the ever-excellent NPAC blog [one, two, three, four, five].

In December, Steph had a wobble and ended up in jail. In January, when I read Steph’s words about her court hearing it was clear that Tony has had a life-changing effect on her life:

When I went to Halifax I sat in front of the judge and the crown was asking for 4-6 months and my lawyer asked for probation and sure enough I got it. Then, when I went to Pictou courts my lawyer asked for 6 months house arrest and he got it too […] if it wasn’t for my lawyer in Halifax I would of been fucked.

 He fought for me to do house arrest because I did so much in the last year, like, he brought up how when I lived in Ottawa I met this man named Tony Fouhse was gonna help me get into a rehab called the R.O Royal Ottawa but I never came to the rehab because I ended up growing a cyst on my brain and how Tony ended up helping me ween from using Heroin to 1 4mg dillie (Dilaudid) a day and sent me home to my family where I could sober up and become a clean mom and we did a project of my life on the street.

It’s a bit embarrassing it’s taken me six months to share my wonder. As well as being photo-rich, Steph and Tony’s journey is a really compelling story. Live Through This is one of the most interesting photography projects I’ve followed in recent years.

STRAYLIGHT PRESS

Live Through This is all the more impressive because Tony and Steph have taken it upon themselves to promote, produce and distribute it. Tony describes Straylight Press as a “vehicle to produce and disseminate printed photo matter.”

Future projects include the unflinching work of Scot Sothern and Brett Gundlock’s Prisoners (which I saluted in the past) so it is exciting times. The idea is that the success of one project feeds the next, so if enough copies of Live Through This sell then profits go into producing the next photographer’s book. It’s a pre-sales fundraising model. In addition, Straylight zines are fairly inexpensive and the intent is to produce 3 or 4 each year.

“Straylight is kind of like a Kickstarter, but with more long-term commitment to projects that aren’t just my own,” says Tony. “Kickstarter projects, while a good and interesting idea, seem to me to be too much about the individual. Not that I have anything against that, after all, you need an ego to be a photographer. But …”

Last month, Tony talked with the Ottawa Citizen about Straylight: Tony Fouhse opens photo-book publishing house – and web gurus be damned.

Tony is flogging prints, books and workshops to raise money for Straylight projects.

Understandably, Tony is shifting his energies from his personal blog drool to the Straylight blog. Straylight is also on Facebook.

Good stuff.

From the inbox:

Prison Photography will be honored with a 2011 Photo Blog Award from LIFE.com.

This is the first annual Photo Blog Awards from LIFE.com and this year the editors have selected 20 blogs. To determine the 2011 honorees, LIFE.com editors considered nearly 300 blogs that count photography as central to their mission. Winners range from major news organizations to individual enthusiasts who are transforming the ways that photographs are made, shared, and discussed.”

So that’s unexpected and quite a lovely way to start the week. Chuffed to be on a list with so many other great blogs I read and respect – 500 Photographers, A Photo Editor, aCurator, American Suburb X, Bagnews Notes, Burn, Conscientious, Feature Shoot, New York Times’ Lens, NPR’s The Picture Show, PDN, The Sartortialist, TIME.com’s Lightbox, What’s the Jackanory?

To celebrate, my housemate made a rhubarb-sprinkle-surprise-sponge-cake, which is just about the best cake there is.

Carl Court / AFP – Getty Images; Dan Kitwood / Getty Images; Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

These photos of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arriving at Westminster Magistrates Court inside a prison van with red windows reminded me of Ben Graville’s past work, which I wrote about here.

Graville’s In & Out The Old Bailey caused some controversy drawing accusations of exploitation. Do we feel Assange is being exploited here? I don’t really think so. Assange is well aware of media praxis and photographer protocols for winning that shot. By his direct eye contact, it would seem he’s putting on a show for these photographers? Or maybe it’s just the edit?

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE RED?

You could run hog wild with reading the colour here, but I won’t. I’ll just mention, witch-hunts, the Hunt for Red October, Red Letter Day, the commies, the Reds, blood on “their” hands, whoever they are, the Scarlet Pimpernel, drive by night tactics, sex by surprise, red light districts and the red ink of Top Secret papers. All collapsing on top of this portrait of a man, still widely misrepresented.

Lots of lists of photobooks cropping up for different reasons.

PHONAR

To close out the remarkable efforts of Jonathan Worth’s experimental open-sourced, web-based, free Photography and Narrative (#PHONAR) course offered through Coventry University, the #PHONAR course closed with a bevvy of recommended readings.

The following photographers, writers, teachers and journalists made picks:

Alec Soth; Andy Adams; Cory Doctorow; Daniel Meadows; David Campbell; Edmund Clark; Fred Ritchin; Geoff Dyer; Gilles Peress; Grant Scott; Harry Hardie; Jeff Brouws; Joel Meyerowitz; John Edwin Mason; Jonathan Shaw; Jonathan Worth; Ken Schles; Larissa Leclair; Ludwig Haskins; Matt Johnston; Michael Hallett; Miki Johnson; Mikko Takkunen; Nathalie Belayche; Peter Dench; Pete Brook; Sean O’Hagan; Simon Roberts; Stephen Mayes; Steve Pyke; Todd Hido

As a contributor, I picked out three titles. Predictably, each dealt with photography in sites of incarceration:

Zona – Carl de Keyzer

Too Much Time – Jane Evelyn Atwood

Intimate Enemy – Robert Lyons

Chris Verene‘s Family was a later addition.

It was a privilege to be asked to guest lecture on this pioneering educational model. Thanks to Jonathan, Matt Johnston @mjohnstonmedia (Chief Engineer) and students for their encouragement and engagement.

WAYNE FORD

The #PHONAR list was spurred by Wayne Ford’s Photobooks and Narrative list.

JOHN EDWIN MASON

Following the #PHONAR list, contributor John Edwin Mason extended his selections. Mason’s Photobooks and Narrative: My (Slightly Flawed) Phonar List has an African and African American emphasis.

ALEC SOTH

Tonight, Soth put forward his Top 10+ Photobooks of 2010. As ever, Soth is thorough, thoughtful and generous in response.

JEFF LADD

Jeff at 5B4 has picked out his 15 choices for Best Books of 2010. The comments section is lively and I don’t think being to conceptual (as Jeff is accused of) is a problem, even if it were a fair allegation.

SEAN O’HAGAN

Sean at the Guardian has selected 2010’s best photography books that you should put in someones stocking.

NIALL MCDIARMID

Niall has put together his Photobooks and Magazines of the Year.

EMAIL

prisonphotography [at] gmail [dot] com

@BROOKPETE ON TWITTER

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