APQ Whale

© Eric Smith

I’ve been getting really anxious about screens, for good reason. I’m planning my exit strategy from writing. I can’t be in front of backlit rectangles for 8 hours or more every day any more. There are many components to this transition. This piece about Eric Smith’s viral whale pic which I wrote earlier this year for Actually People Quarterly is one of the more cathartic components.

‘A Metaphor For Digital Idiocy’ seemed to be a popular phrase. It fairly sums up my none-too-veiled urge to y’all to be outside more.

“Maybe the whale came to the surface to impart wisdom. Maybe she’s using her humpback to gesture at the man on his phone? Maybe she’s wagging a finger? Or maybe she’s waving? Maybe she’s putting her body on the line because it’s that important folks.”

Read: My Thoughts On That Viral Photo Of The Man, On A Boat, On His Smartphone, Who Did Not See The Whale, The Ever-So Big Humpback Whale, In Front Of Him

ihatechoosingausername

 

“I spent so much time counting down the days to my court date when I would sit in this very holding cell for about 7 hours. If court is at 9, they bring you down to the holding cell at 5AM and don’t bring you back up until after 2PM count. On one hand it was nice to have all that time to think, on the other the anxiety was a full-time job,” says ihatechoosingausername.

Yesterday ihatechoosingausername posted some snaps from jail alongside stock pics and some funnies too. It is niftily titled So I  Just Came Home From Jail.

In 13 images (make sure to click to see the full gallery after the 10th image) and a few words she describes her entry and exit from Henrico County Jail in Virginia. her past addiction and wish to stay clean, her new felony record, the struggles to find work, her imminent homelessness and her frank cluelessness on what is next.

It went viral. Over 340,000 views at the time of writing.

In an update, ihatechoosingausername said:

Wow, Imgur, the support I’ve received after making this post has been absolutely amazing! Thank you so much for the kind words. Also, through this post I got to talk to one of the people who fed me while I was homeless in the park last winter and let him know just how much good he’s doing in the world by giving sammiches to the homeless.

This is not an obvious feel good story but there’s a realness about ihatechoosingausername’s words that leave us hoping it will become one. Time will tell. I wish ihatechoosingausername the best of luck.

No trolls in sight. To you Internets, well done for not being a dick.

“If a book can have a trailer, I guess this is sort of that,” wrote Steve Davis in his email this morning.

Me Steve have a long history* but that in no way discredits what I am about to say. Whether I am biased or not (I am) this video absolute nails it. Why? The process of image-making is often messy. It get messier the more people are involved. Making photographs inside a prison — for Steve and his students — involves local authorities, management and staff. Everyone thinks they have a say or a role. If everyone is a photographer, then everyone is a photo-critic, or worse, everyone is the Photo Police.

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Remann Hall Girls-4

Steve saw nice things and he saw absolutely devastating things. He met kids raised to be racists and they were very personable. He encountered kids stuck in the system and devolving to the oppressed and hardened personalities required for survival. He met staff who were moving heaven and hell to give these troubled kids the best shot at the rest of their lives, and he met adults who had already written them off and goaded the kids.

As Steve says, layers of contradictions and complex challenges exist in juvenile detention facilities. These images will not give you any easy answers; they will probably throw up more questions.

This is the best, quickest and truest introduction to Steve’s series Captured Youth that currently exists. If you like what he says an dyou like the images then pre-order the book of this work Unfinished at Minor Matters Books.

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*Steve Davis was my first ever interview on Prison Photography. That happened because he was geographically the closest when I started the site. He didn’t have to say yes to the interview but he did. I must have done something right because a year later he invited me to his class to give a lecture. Steve Davis’ student were the first college students I ever presented material to. Years ago, when I was going through a really hard break-up and needed to get out of town, I headed down I5 and crashed on Steve’s couch for a couple of nights. Photographs made by incarcerated boys and girls who were students in his workshops feature in Prison Obscura. Next year,  Prison Obscura will be shown at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Steve is the coordinator of the photography program at Evergreen and introduced the show to the gallery’s curator. Steve is a friend.

 

COLLECTIVES, YES

Photo collectives are to be admired.

More about network than net worth; more about camaraderie than competition; and more about group-strength than groupthink, I reckon collectives are the best. Being in one doesn’t guarantee an endless flow of fat-paying assignments, but it does guarantee a endless suuply of expertise, friends and feedback. If was a photographer I’d totally be in one.

Imagine my double-bliss when Boreal Collective invited me to the Boreal Bash which is itself is all about collectives.

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 Two pictures of Boreal Bash 2014.

BOREAL BASH 2015

The 2015 Boreal Bash is in Toronto from August 14-16th. What is it? It’s portfolio reviews, presentations by guest speakers, an exhibition, a thought experiment, and an important workshop. It is “a place where photographers can come together, learn from each other, drink and be merry,” they say.

And, if you can get yourself there, it is FREE.

Photo collectives MJR, Prime and Dysturb will be there.

DOLLARS, CANADIAN DOLLARS

Here’s the thing though, Boreal needs to cover overheads. I donated a sketch but that Kickstarter incentive was already snagged, so I can’t tempt you with that. Head over to the Boreal Bash Kickstarter page and let them convince you. Below are a bunch of prints, postcards and newspapers to get you revved up.

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Sled dog eats moose leg. 12×8″ Rafal Gerszak. Yukon, Canada. 2015

WORKSHOP

New to this bash is the workshop.  For this, Boreal Collective’s first ever documentary photography workshop THE ART OF BEING AN INDEPENDENT STORYTELLER you get two days (Fri Aug 14th – Sat Aug 15th) of intensive workshopping. They’re going to let you in on the secrets to make it as an independent photographer. They want you to have a project in progress — something for y’all to get your chops into. If I was a photographer, I’d totally be signing up.

WORKSHOP SCHOLARSHIP

The workshop ain’t free. But it can be. If you’re young and hungry and have the time to submit your work, there’s a scholarship spot up for grabs. I’ve got word from the inside that submissions have been slow (blame LOOK3) so statistically, your chances are good. Get on it. You’re one email from hobnobbing/editing with very talented photographers. One email from certain fame and glory.

Deadline is Midnight EST on Friday June 19th

BOREAL

Boreal are “united by a desire to document humanity and its intricate realities in our rapidly evolving world. […] At a time when the photographic industry is being dismantled, Boreal seeks to rise to the challenge of taking an active role in its redefinition.”

They are Laurence Butet-Roch, Aaron Vincent Elkaim, Rafal Gerszak, Brett Gundlock, Johan Hallberg-Campbell, Matt Lutton, Eamon Mac Mahon, Mauricio Palos, Jonathan Taggart and Ian Willms.

KICKSTARTER IINCENTIVES

Could be yours:

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Ian Wilms. Scarecrow Family, Poland (2012) From the series Why We Walk Framed, 12×18 Giclée Print on Fine Art Baryta Paper, mounted on archival foam. Edition 1/12.
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A Boreal 4×6″ postcard
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Sleeping vigilante fighter. Brett Gundlock. 2013. 8×8″ Digital C-Print.
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Amusement park in Prishtina, Kosovo. Matt Lutton. 2008. 11×14″ Digital C-Print.
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Christmas Tree, Alligator. Mississippi. Brandon Thibodeaux. 2012 – 6×6 Gelatin Silver Selenium Toned Print ed. 20
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Niviaqsi and net ball, Iqalugaaqjuk, Nunavut. Jonathan Taggart. 2013. 8×12″ Digital C-Print.
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Berkut in Mariinskiy. Kyiv, Ukraine. Brendan Hoffman. 2014. 11×14″ Edition: 1 of 10
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Hunter at Caddo Lake, Texas. Lance Rosenfield. 2014. 8″x8″ Digital C-print
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Boreal SUBJECT(ive) newsprint. 12 pages full colour.
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Métis Hunter at Big Point, Fort Chipewyan, Alberta (2010). Ian Willms. 8×12 Chromogenic Print.
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Boreal TENSION newsprint. 12 pages full colour.
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View of the open air pit from the lookout. Thetford Mines, Quebec. Laurence Butet-Roch. 2009. 11×14″. Archival pigment print.

Reentry in Los Angeles

Darlene Escalante with her grandmother, Veronica, she is on a home visit that she earned at Walden House. Darlene talks about how both parents were in prison and affiliated with gangs. As young girl, she remembers going to Chino State Prison to visit her father. When her mother went to prison too, Darlene’s grandmother took her to make visits. “Both my grandmother and my mother were drug addicts. In 1989, my dad died after he changed his life, he was a nurse. He was gunned down and shot nine times. I want so much to change my life now, that’s why I came to Walden House. I don’t want to continue this horrible legacy that has existed in my family.” Los Angeles, 2008. From the series Re-entry.

IN CONVERSATION WITH JOSEPH RODRIGUEZ

A long time ago Joseph Rodriguez and I chatted. An edited version of the conversation just made the webs.

If you know Joe, you know he’s not short of words. We covered a lot, but given Mark Ellen Mark‘s recent passing, I wanted to highlight this anecdote with which Joe closed the interview.

I was shy. I gotta tell you. I did it at ICP. Going to school there was amazing. I remember Salgado looking at my pictures, and all I could do was photograph my life as a taxi driver. I was really very shy, and I just I wound up shooting through the windows a lot—stuff on the street. It was pretty cinematic, but he saw the pictures, and he didn’t say anything. I fucking blew it. That killed me!

Then I took a workshop with Mary Ellen Mark, and she was the one who really kicked my ass. She said, “You don’t believe in who you are.” I got defensive and said “What do you mean?”

“Well, you don’t believe in yourself as a photographer,” she said. So, she gave me this exercise. “When you get up in the morning in your underwear stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself you’re a photographer for 15 minutes.”

Doesn’t that sound a little hokey to you? Believe it or not, your boy did it, and I began to slowly believe more in myself as a photographer.

Now, I tell my students the same. If you don’t go out with reverence when you say you want to photograph somebody, they’re not going to take you seriously. You’re going to get a snapshot, nothing more.

I found photography in a very amateur way; it gave me happiness, gladness, and made me want to produce something that I was interested and excited about. To this day, though, I’m still nervous when I’ve got to go out and photograph.

Read the full conversation at the ICP website.

L.A.P.D.

Homicide Detectives Dobine and Cedric Pacific Division. From the series LAPD.

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The Quiles family at home. Ramiro and Danny from Marianna Maravilla, with their mother Aida, and sister Maria. East Los Angeles, CA, 1993. From the series East Side Stories.

L.A.P.D.

Rampart Officers search the house of a family of a man who was shot by a gang member in his living room. They check the building for the suspect. From the series LAPD.

East Los Angeles, CA, 1993.

Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, CA, 1993. From the series East Side Stories.

Boyle Heights

A Clarence Gang member is hit with five bullets from an automatic weapon on the night of a gang truce in East Los Angeles. His fellow gang members rush him to the hospital. From the series East Side Stories.

From the series Juvenile.

L.A.P.D.

Rampart Division Officers detaining an arrested woman. From the series LAPD.

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A family gathers the round of the coffin of Thomas Regalado III, who was killed by a stray bullet during a drive-by shooting. East Los Angeles, CA 1992. From the series East Side Stories.

Officers responding to a domestic violence call.

Officers responding to a domestic violence call. From the series LAPD.

The minors are leaving the facility and are chained down for transporting. San Jose Juvenile hall. San Jose, California 1999. From the series Juvenile.

From the series Juvenile.

pjp

In the conventional definition of the word, there are not many funny things about prison. In spite of that, those oppressed by the system are still leveraging humour in order to process and overcome America’s dehumanising and oppressive prison industrial complex.

The Poetic Justice Project (PJP) is a case in point.

“Poetic Justice Project is California’s only theatre company comprised of formerly incarcerated actors appearing in plays that examine crime, punishment and redemption,” explains PJP whose latest production is INSIDE/OUT: A Comedic Look At Prison and Re-Entry

PRESS RELEASE

Bay Area audiences will witness a unique marriage in June: the happy union of a 500-year-old art form with cutting edge social justice theatre. Poetic Justice Project will present its Commedia Dell’Arte play, INSIDE/OUT, at St. Mary’s Center in Oakland and on Alcatraz Island.

Commedia Dell’Arte is a style of masked, improvisational slapstick comedy that dates back to 16th Century Italy. INSIDE/OUT follows character Damian from prosecution to prison to parole as he wears whatever mask he needs to survive. Damian is saved by the love of a good woman, and by his determination to never return to prison.

The play is directed by Gale McNeeley, a graduate of the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City, the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre and Scuola Internazionale Dell’Attore Comico in Italy. INSIDE/OUT was co-created by McNeeley and actors Leonard Flippen, Jorge Manly Gil, Janet Guess, Nick Homick and Caroline Taylor-Hitch. The actors have all been incarcerated—in prison, jail or juvenile facilities. Most have no previous theatre experience when they come to Poetic Justice Project.

INSIDE/OUT shows Friday, June 19 at 6 p.m. at St. Mary’s Center, 925 Brockhurst St., Oakland. Tickets are $15 and available from Brown Paper Tickets, 800-838-3006, and at the door. On Saturday, June 20 at 2 p.m., there is a free performance on Alcatraz Island.

Based in Santa Maria, the project was founded by Artistic Director Deborah Tobola in 2009. Tobola and Poetic Justice Project recently received the the Santa Barbara County Action Network’s “Looking Forward” Award for Leadership and Vision.

Poetic Justice Project It is a program of the award-winning William James Association, which provides arts instruction to prisoners, people on parole and probation, and youth at risk of incarceration.

QUESTIONS? MEDIA CONTACT

Deborah Tobola, Artistic Director

tel: (805) 264-5463
eml: deborah@poeticjusticeproject.org

P.O. Box 7196
Santa Maria
CA 93456

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A Portrait Of A Bankrupt City

My latest for Vantage:

When Stockton filed for bankruptcy in 2012, it was the largest city in US history to do so. Kirk Crippens has spent the past three years photographing its residents.

It seems unlikely Kirk Crippens’ portraits are really going to affect the lives of the residents of Stockton, California. It is their portraits that make up his series Bank Rupture. Rather, it will be food banks, loan relief, and Stockton’s fiscal restructuring that will deliver much more direct — negative and positive — effects.

Grand statements and big claims aren’t Crippens’ style. Modest and curious, Crippens uses image-making to investigate and connect with the world. He photographs to establish relationships beyond his immediate working and daily experience. It might sound trite, but Crippens employs photography to show he cares. Having interviewed Crippens numerous times I’m confident in the claim.

“I served as witness. I immersed myself for a time and took some photographs along the way,” says Crippens.

Read the full piece and see a larger selection of images larger.

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Banning

I spoke with Jan Banning yesterday. What a lovely fellow. He reads more than he photographs. He does non-fiction more than he does fiction. He does academic papers more than anything else right now. He’s been reading up on the philosophy of punishment, the biological roots of murder, and social control of “transgressive” women. What a lovely fellow.

Anyhoo, it’s going to take me a while to transcribe our hour long conversation which doesn’t help Jan in the immediate as he raises funds for his new book Law & Order.

Law and Order is a photo project that compares the criminal justice systems in Colombia, France, Uganda and the United States of America. Jan opted for this quadruplet after consultation with the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law (MPI) in Germany … and after reading hundreds of pages of journal articles.

Law and Order gives a human face to the authorities responsible for the investigation (police), trial of offenses (judges and lawyers) and the execution of sentences (prisons). Jan was able to gain access to these institutions – often with great difficulty – and he was also able to photograph suspects and convicts. Law & Order raises questions such as: How do we deal with criminals? What is the relationship between punishment and crime? Is confinement, besides being an instrument of punishment, also effective as a means of correction?”

It’s not just prisons. Jan photographed in police stations, courts and remand centers too.

The book will be designed by Peter Jonker, will be 144 pages, with 75 photos and measure 240 x 320 mm. Ipso Facto (Utrecht, Holland) is the publisher. Prison specialist, Michiel Scholtes provides an introduction and experts from the Max Planck Institute are contributing essays. Infographics and stats will abound too. Sounds like a dream.

Here’s the problem though. The pre-sales through the crowd funding have gone gangbusters in Holland and Jan hightailed it past his original target a long time ago. However, at the time of writing, Jan has only three pre-sales from people in the United States.

Jan didn’t use Kickstarter and so the fundraising campaign just didn’t run those media channels in America that Kickstarter has got locked down. That’s just the way it is. Ultimately though, it matters to Jan and it matters to his publisher and, quite frankly, it matters to me that interest exists among an American audience. At $55 (postcards too!) the book isn’t even an out of reach price-point.

Personally, I am looking forward to the new directions conversation will take once Jan and his Plancker friends crank the comparative cogs between these four geographically disparate spots. (Spoiler alert: the U.S. possessed the worst prison system Jan encountered).

So while you’re waiting for me to publish our conversation, you’ve time to go pre-buy Law & Order HERE or HERE (direct pre-buy at janbanning.com).

EMAIL

prisonphotography [at] gmail [dot] com

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