I am not a photographer.
I look and comment.
I work as a freelance writer and curator.
I live in San Francisco, California. 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 U.S. 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 coverage by:
- The Carville Annex
- The New York Times
- The British Journal of Photography
- The Los Angeles Times
- The Philadelphia Inquirer
- 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
Raw File, the photography blog of WIRED (August 2009 – present). Article archive.
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.
Writing published in Aperture Magazine, Photo-Eye, The Good Men Project, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, The Oregonian, ‘Still Searching’ Winterthur Museum blog, Huffington Post, CNN, PDX Design Week.
The Prying Eye of the Public Lens, Think-piece for the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Hillman Photography Initiative (Sept, 2014)
Essay for Amy Elkins’ Black Is The Day, Black Is The Night, produced for the web by Daylight Digital (Dec. 2013)
Essay for Some Other Places We Have Missed newspaper, by Mark Strandquist’s exhibition of the same name at The Bridge PAI, Charlottesville, VA. (June, 2013)
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.
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); Scripps College, Claremont, CA (Sept 2nd-Oct 17th); Alfa Art Gallery & Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ (Oct 7th-Nov. 1st, 2014), Parsons New School of Design, New York, NY (Feb 5th-Apr 17th, 2015); University of Michigan (Sept 8th-25th, 2015)
Bearing Witness Symposium, San Francisco MoMA, March 16th, 2014.
Princeton University, SPEAR (Students for Prison Education And Reform) ‘Building a New Criminal Justice: Mobilizing Students for Reform’ Conference, April 4-5, 2014.
Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PULSE) lecture, Friends Center, Philadelphia, April 2nd, 2014.
Photo-Based Social Practice, Aperture Foundation, NYC, May 16, 2014. Panel discussion of socially engaged, transdisciplinary, and expanded practices in contemporary photography, co-presented by Magnum Foundation’s Photography, Expanded initiative. With Eliza Gregory, Gemma-Rose Turnbull, Mark Strandquist and Wendy Ewald.
Society for Photographic Education Northwest (SPENW) Conference, November 7th, 2013.
‘Prison Communities: You Can’t Arrest Your Way to a Solution. Social Practice Engaging the Criminal Justice System’ panel, Open Engagement, Portland State University, May, 2012.
Creative Mornings, Portland, August 15th, 2014.
Imagery and Prisons: Engaging and Persuading Audiences panel, ‘Marking Time’ Prison Arts and Activism Conference, Institute for Research on Women, Rutgers University, NJ.
Lectures at Nottingham Trent University, UK and Coventry University, UK. Lectures at Haverford College, PA; George Mason University, VA, Corcoran College of Art+Design, DC; Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA; Bowdoin College, ME; Grinnell College, IO; University of North Texas, Denton, TX; School of Visual Arts, NY; Maryland Institute of Contemporary Art (MICA), Baltimore, MD; Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD), Milwaukee, WI; School of the Arts (SOTA), San Francisco, CA; Scripps College, Claremont, CA; and Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland, OR.
JURY DUTYING & NOMINATORING
Juror for 2013 LUCEO Student Project Award.
Juror for 2014 Exposure Award.
Nominator for the Tim Hetherington Visual Media Grant 2014.
University Beyond Bars. Art teacher and board-member with a prison higher education program at Washington State Reformatory, Monroe, WA. (May 2009 – Sept 2011)
Books To Prisoners Seattle, WA. Keyholder, volunteer coordinator. (Jan 2009 – Sept 2011)
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.
NICE THINGS SAID
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.”
Best Investigative Reporting on U.S. Prisons by ProPublica (June, 2012)
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.”