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Doug Dubois needs no introduction in photocircles, but he did when he stepped on to the Russell Heights estate in Cobh, Ireland. Doug was running workshops with the youth in Cobh but making no photographs. Out of compulsion he asked to go to their homes to inspire his photography.
After last weeks events in Newtown, Connecticut, the preciousness of childhood is on the minds of millions. Childhood and teenage years deserve celebration. Dubois’ My Last Day At Seventeen is a celebration. There’s no portfolio on his website but you can see selects on Piece Of Cake.
Often, when you hear teachers reflect about their work, you’ll hear, “I learnt more from the students than they learnt from me,” or some variant of. It seems this was Doug’s experience.
“I’m interested in the glow of youth; its fragility. As I’m older, I know it will disappear, but they don’t,” says Dubois in a beautifully produced feature in the 13th episode of the Irish culture and arts television program Imeall. Dubois spent four consecutive summers working in Russell Heights through the artist in residency programme at Sirius Arts Centre.
“He spent four years photographing my life,” says Erin Mackessy, one of Dubois’ main subjects (above, on the left) who speaks throughout the film (click the image below). The respect between Doug and Erin is described really well. It’s nice to hear both photographer and subject talk about one another so familiarly.
Following my recent post of David Leventi‘s work, a reader contacted me to alert me of the potential (and presumably happenstance) development of Stateville Correctional Center, Joliet, Illinois as an art object.
Consistently through the representations of Stateville is the description of the roundhouse as one of the last remaining prisons in America adhering to the Panopticon model developed by Jeremy Bentham.
Let us be clear, the Panopticon is an outdated and abusive model for corrections; it relies on a small number controlling a large number through the threat of constant supervision. Modern correctional management must look beyond disciplinary techniques based upon spatial arrangement and look toward truly transformative (educational) engagement with prison populations.
Still one can only speculate that the roundhouse prison is of interest to artists primarily because of its “purity” of form as understood – and communicated – through the formal qualities of composition within the photographic print.
A while later, Dubois found out that Andreas Gursky had too gone to Stateville, apparently inspired by Doug and Jim’s photograph and took a picture himself (below). Gursky has admitted in his career he finds ideas for images in newspapers and other popular media. Gursky’s image put in context here, at the Brooklyn Rail.
So, this raises questions. Has Stateville prison inadvertently become a tease, and a subject for curious photographic artists?
Do the individual activities of artists have a bearing on one another? Should these images exist within the same discourse? Do photographic attentions of the 21st century have any relation to the need and stresses of current correctional politics in Illinois?
Does the ascendancy of Stateville onto gallery walls effect any significant – or measurable – impression of Stateville prison within public consciousness?
Or are Dubois, Goldberg, Gursky and Leventi just continuing an intrigue which has continued throughout the decades?