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The California Medical Facility, a high-security prison in Vacaville, houses roughly 3,000 criminals: some in good health, some ill, some dying. The hospice is the oldest inside a California prison and one of the nation's first. Two men formed a bond there: Freddy Garcia, serving a nine-year sentence for armed robbery and suffering from terminal colon cancer, had twice petitioned the state for a compassionate release and been turned down.
San Pedro Prison in La Paz, Bolivia is a singular type of prison. It accepts tourists. It also attracts professional photographers. For me, the story of San Pedro has always been the sporadic schedules of guided tours within the prison. First they are on, then they are off.
The very existence of images made by free-wheeling tourists tells us a lot more about the administration’s attitude to security, social priorities and moneymaking than the visit of any single photographer. One might presume that a professional photographer’s visit would be a rare thing … if it wasn’t for the thousands of photographs made by amateurs.
Still, I like very much a few of Giovanni Cobianchi‘s portraits in his San Pedro Limbo series.
If these images from San Pedro interest you, consider looking at Toby BInder’s work I featured earlier this year in Photos of Infamous Bolivian Prison Go Beyond Common Tourist Snaps
It’s been three weeks since my last post. With Instagram as my witness, I was recharging down in Baja. The fish tacos, jellyfish stings, manta-ray hunt, whale-shark mind-meld and beach-camping all served to refresh body and brain.
Let normal blogging resume.
Above: Scorpion we picked up in our firewood, Ligui, Baja California Sur.
I recently sent out the last of the goodies to the Prison Photography on the Road (PPOTR) funders. The packages included the PPOTR Mixtape (actually a CD) and I wanted to share its content with the wider world too.
On the road, I went through hundreds of CDs while driving those 12,500 miles, but I kept coming back to a compilation of soul put together – shortly before my departure – by my good friend Brendan Seibel. He used to work at Amoeba Records and in the realm of music, has forgotten more than I will ever know. Thank you Brendan.
Lette Mbulu – Kube
Jean Wells – Have a Little Mercy
Fabulous Denos – Bad Girl
Betty James – I’m Not Mixed Up Anymore
Johnny Watson – I Say, I Love You
Lee Shot Williams – You’re Welcome to the Club
Apagya Show Band – Kwaku Ananse
The Psychedelic Aliens – We’re Laughing
Horace Andy – Skylarking
Jennifer Lara – Consider Me
Angela Prince – No Bother With No Fuss
Burning Spear – Fire Down Below
John Holt – Strange Things
Charlotte Dada – Don’t Let Me Down
Rosemary – Not Much (Do You Baby)
Albert King – Had You Told It Like It Was (I Wouldn’t Be Like It Is)
Johnny Knight – Little Ann
No Youtube or MPS for Little Ann, so Knight’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Guitar acts as substitute.
Freddy King – Now I’ve Got A Woman
Sinner Strong – Don’t Knock It
Little Willie John – I’m Shakin’
Sam & Bill – I Feel Like Cryin’
Marion Black – Who Knows
Ken Boothe & Stranger Cole – Arte Bella
Freddie McGregor – Bobby Bobylon
Jerry Jones – There’s a Chance for Me
Mahmoud Ahmed – Gizié Dègu Nègèr
Oscar Sulley & The Uhuru Dance Band – Bukom Mashie
They’d probably get in the England squad.
Maybe I got sucked in by the fact it is A FRIKKING MONKEY RIDING A SHEEP DOG IN SOME MUDWORLD MAMMAL OLYMPICS! … maybe the photo is a document of animal misuse. It’s mad-bonkers.
Either way, this photo of animals being forced to do unnatural things under the watchful eye of humans seemed to say more about the Angola Prison Rodeo than the thousands of images I’ve seen of people at the Angola Prison Rodeo. It’s a weird event.
See Bettina’s full set from the Angola Prison Rodeo.
(All of this explains the title to this interview with me from ages ago. I never understood the title at the time.)
Simple, but makes the point well.
Geographer, photographer, Doctor of Philosophy and artist, Trevor Paglen on the cross overs between manifest destiny, early landscape photography and military surveillance.