I am not a photographer.
I stick to looking and commenting.
I work as a freelance writer.
I live in Portland, Oregon. Originally from Lancashire, England.
I believe the United States needs to pursue large-scale prison and sentencing reform.
We must stop warehousing people and be creative with rehabilitation. Prisons in the US are socially and economically unsustainable. As they exist, prisons are a liability. Often discussions on prison issues are framed incorrectly. Sometimes prisons are ignored. Problems also exist in other countries.
Cameras and their operators function in recording, and to some degree, interpreting the stories of (and within) prison systems. How varied is the imagery?
If a camera is within prison walls we should always be asking; How did it get there? What are/were the motives? What are the responses? What social and political powers are at play in a photograph’s manufacture? And, how is knowledge, related to those powers, constructed?
Prison Photography also concerns itself with civil liberties, ethics and social justice as they relate to photography and photojournalism.
I have spoken about Prison Photography in more detail in interviews with the following folk:
- The New York Times
- The British Journal of Photography
- The Kickstarter blog
- Feature Shoot
- POSI+TIVE Magazine
- Thoughts on Photography
- Wonderful Machine
- Seattle Weekly
- Juvenile Justice Information Exchange
- The Penal System blog
- Thomas Boyd blog
DAY JOB: Raw File photography blog, Wired.com (August 2009 – present). Article archive.
CONTRIBUTOR: BagNewsNotes, the only website dedicated solely to visual politics and the analysis of news images: (May 2010 – present). Article archive. Participant in The Fall of Bin Laden, a BagNews Salon about the images of Osama Bin Laden’s assassination. (June 2011)
VOLUNTEER: University Beyond Bars. Art teacher and board-member with a prison higher education program at Washington State Reformatory, Monroe, WA. (May 2009 – September 2011.)
Foreword for Confined exhibition catalogue, Bluecoats Gallery, Liverpool, UK, 2011.
Prison Photography on the Road (PPOTR), Autumn 2011
Between September 24th and December 20th, 2011, I made a 12-week journalism road-trip across America. I interviewed over three dozen photographers who have documented prisons. In addition, I spoke to two dozen leading practitioners in prison arts, prison education, prison law and activism.
PPOTR audio interviews are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License and will be published on a dedicated website (upcoming) for free use. PPOTR was made possible with the support of 182 backers who supported my Kickstarter campaign, Prison Photography on the Road: Stories Behind the Pictures.
Cruel and Unusual, Noorderlicht Photogallery, Groningen, The Netherlands (Feb 18th-Apr 8th, 2012); Melkweg Gallery, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (May, 2012); Photoville, New York (June 22nd-July 1st, 2012); Reportage Photo Festival, Sydney, Australia (25 May – 13 June); Sirius Art Center, Cobh, Ireland (13 June – 7 July, 2013 ).
Women in [Prison] Photography, for the Women in Photography website. (Feb 2012).
The Depository Of Unwanted Photographs, Photoville, New York (Sept. 2013). A crowdsourced socially-engaged installation over 6 days in which we accepted submissions from members of the public of their forgettable and storied images.
Seen But Not Heard, Artget Gallery, Kulturni Centar Belgrada, Belgrade, Serbia (Dec, 2013).An exhibition of photographs from American juvenile detention facilities. Featuring Ara Oshagan, Richard Ross, Joseph Rodriguez, Steve Liss, Steve Davis and the work of children at the Rhode Island Training School (RITS) taking classes through AS220. More here.
Forthcoming: Prison Obscura: An exhibition of prison non-traditional imagery – surveillance, code, vernacular, workshop photography. Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, Haverford, PA. (Jan 24th 2014 – Mar 7th, 2014).
Society for Photographic Education Northwest (SPENW) Conference: November 7th, 2013.
Lectured to students at Nottingham Trent University and Coventry University in the UK. In the US, I’ve presented at Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA; Bowdoin College, ME; Grinnell College, IO; University of North Texas, Denton, TX; School of Visual Arts, NY; and Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland, OR.
Juror for 2013 LUCEO Student Project Award.
In The Other One Percent, Jeff Emtman and I talk about prisons and my work for his podcast about fear and the unknown, Here Be Monsters.
Beast Best Award. One of 100 best websites as selected by editors of the Daily Beast/Newsweek. (June 2013)
“A global perspective on the gritty and honest reality of incarceration, told through photographs, interviews, and commentary.”
10 of the Best Photoblogs by the British Journal of Photography, as selected by Joerg Colberg. (July, 2011)
“Given the high incarceration rate in the US, there is no shortage of material to cover. Brook is incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about his subject and his mantra might be most obvious from a recent post entitled “Blogging about photography is a political act.”
Top 20 Best Photo Blogs by LIFE.com. (May 2011)
“This is heavy, thoughtful stuff — it’s impossible to spend time here without feeling your assumptions about all sorts of issues beginning to wobble — and Prison Photography presents it all with grace, power, and a wry, welcome humor.”