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Alan Pogue is one of the best documentary photographers you’ve never heard of. Not one to get mixed up in the social media conga line, Pogue instead spends his time hunting down important stories. Very important stories.
Rosa Moreno lost her hands last year in an industrial accident in Reynosa, Mexico. Pogue writes:
“They needed to step up production and Rosa was asked to operate a machine that stamps out the back plate for a particular model of flat screen monitor because it was a little complicated and she was good and she was faster than most. She was also a little more brave. It scared some of the others who declined to work at this machine on the line. She stepped up.
It happened just after 2 in the morning February 20, 2011. As she was positioning a piece of steel plate, the machine suddenly jumped into action and clamped down on her hands with tons of force. She knew she had to maintain her presence of mind, since it would be necessary for her to argue for being taken to the right hospital. […] but the company would not allow an ambulance to be called. They did not want her taken to the hospital Rosa wanted because it might be more expensive, and because the accident would be on the record. With her hands now flat as tortillas and meshed into the monitor back plate, she walked to a co-worker’s car and was taken to the hospital, where they amputated her hands, still enmeshed in the steel plate.
She gets by on the Mexican government’s equivalent of Social Security disability, about $230 dollars a month. There is no workman’s comp. She had no insurance. There was no union. Some church groups help her out a bit with food and some money. The company offered to give her a one time payment of $4500. But she refused. Even though it is not clear that there is a way to obtain a better settlement through the court system under NAFTA, she holds out.”
Alan Pogue has photographed extensively across North and Central America focusing on social issues, labour issues, civil rights, criminal justice and the Texas prison system. I had the pleasure of meeting him last year and when we talked about his stories, water gathered in his eyes and his voice wobbled. This is work that he really feels and Rosa’s is a cause he deeply, deeply believes in. Please think about helping this holiday season.
via Susan Noyes Platt.
The Global Post has just launched ENCARCELACION an investigative series about the correctional systems of Latin America that “have gone horribly wrong.”
We’ve seen the headlines of jailbreaks in Mexico, riots in Venezuelan prisons, and fires in Honduran jails, but often these stories seems a world away. The politics underpinning the strife in Latin American prisons is not my area of expertise but the importance of the stories is undeniable. It is interesting that the Global Post has used photography as an anchor to the front page.
After digging down into ENCARCELACION‘s trove of info, you may want to follow links to Prison Photography‘s irregular coverage of various aspects of life in Latin American prisons:
Gary Knight – Joao Pina – Jackie Dewe Matthews – Valerio Bispuri – Pedro Lobo – Vance Jacobs and Columbian prisoners – tourist photography in Bolivian prisons – prison tattoos (some from Central America) – Kate Orlinksky’s portraits of Mexican female prisoners - Fabio Cuttica at a Columbian prison beauty pageant – Patricia Aridjis in Mexico – even Cornell Capa was in Latin American prisons at one time.
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Thanks to Theo Stroomer for the heads up.
Nancy Lilia Núñez, 22, and her daughter, Claudia Marlen, 3. Ms.Núñez is in prison on a kidnapping charge.. © Katie Orlinsky
Katie Orlinsky‘s photographs, including her incredibly powerful portraits from El Cereso, the Ciudad Juárez prison, in Mexico accompany Damien Cave’s New York Times Sunday Review article Mexico’s Drug War, Feminized.
Ms. Núñez is only 22. She grew up here, in one of the world’s most crime-infested cities. But was she just hanging out with the wrong crowd, or is she a criminal deserving decades behind bars? With her case and others, this is what Mexico is struggling to figure out. The number of women incarcerated for federal crimes has grown by 400 percent since 2007, pushing the total female prison population past 10,000. No one here seems to know what to make of the spike. Clearly, the rise can partly be attributed to the long reach of drug cartels, which have expanded into organized crime, and drawn in nearly everyone they can, including women.
With 80% of the female inmates at Ciudad Juarez Prison imprisoned for narcotics related crimes, the war on drugs cartels is certainly having results – one wonders though if the results in terms of incarceration are having an effect on lessening the organised crime. A pessimistic position would suggest that these women (and their children) are easily replaced by others to be used by the cartels in identical ways.
One of the most common threads I’ve observed through photographs of female prisoners is the solidarity and sisterhood that exists in female prisons. Whether or not this truly exists is another matter, but in a world where many women are locked up because of men, in institutions usually associated with (violent) men, the notion that the majority of women are victims and only have each other is one worth pondering.
Particularly, Orlinsky’s portraits against a white prison wall are powerful introductions to the personalities of women who’ve lived lives of – and through – severe conflict. More of Orlinksky’s documentary shots can be seen at her website.
FEMALE PRISONERS ELSEWHERE ON PRISON PHOTOGRAPHY
- Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo
– Former Prisoner, Diana Ortiz, Inspires Confidence and Healing in Female Inmates
– Photography Workshop for Romanian Women Prisoners Produces 14,000 Images
– Women’s Prisons in Afghanistan
– Women Behind Bars: Jane Evelyn Atwood’s ‘Too Much Time’
– Women Behind Bars: Vikki Law
– Women Behind Bars: Silja J.A. Talvi
– “Angels Without Wings” Momena Jalil
– Fabio Cuttica: Colombian Prison Beauty Pageant
– “It was like being in front of a mirror.” Melania Comoretto and Women Prisoners
– Neelakshi Vidyalankara
– Patricia Aridjis: The Black Hours / Las Horas Negras
– Prison Nursery, Ohio Reformatory for Women, by Angela Shoemaker
Friend of Prison Photography, Emiliano Granado, likes football as much as he rocks at photography.
We pooled our knowledge to pair each country competing in South Africa with a photographer of the same nationality.
ALG Algeria – Christian Poveda
ENG England – Stephen Gill
SVN Slovenia – Klavdij Sluban (French of Slovenian origin … I know, I know, but you try to find a Slovenia born photographer!)
USA United States – Bruce Davison
Emiliano has been posting images from each of the photographers and doubled up on a few nations where the talent pool is teeming. You can see them all over on his Tumblr account, A PILE OF GEMS
* Don’t even begin arguing about who should represent the USA. It is a never-ending debate.
* I’ll be honest, finding photographers for the African nations was tricky, even for a web-search-dork like myself. But then we knew about the shortcomings of distribution and promotion within the industry, didn’t we?
* For Chile, we had to look to the past legend Larrain. I’ll be grateful if someone suggest a living practitioner.
* North Korean photographer, by name, anyone? We had to fall back on van Houtryve because he got inside the DPR.
* Rineke Dijkstra was one of approximately 4 thousand-trillion dutch photographers who are everywhere.
* Araki was the easy choice. Ill admit – I know next to nothing about Japanese photography (Marc, help?)
* I wanted a few more political photographers in there, while Emiliano goes for arty stuff. I think we found a nice balance overall.
* And, SERIOUSLY, name me a Paraguayan photographer! PLEASE.
‘Duck and I’ © Pete Brook
Last month I went to Big Bend National Park, on the border with Texas and Mexico. The Chihuahuan desert is very hot during the day, even in spring. We took an 18-mile day hike, walking before and immediately following sunrise and later in the three hours before sundown.
On the trek out I was surprised to see (and super-amused by) the artistry of some ducks (called cairns in the UK); even in the inhospitable desert, some folks had taken the time and care to build these things. It occurred to me that I’d seen typologies of most things but not these essential, non-owned, geo-marking, petra-sculptures. On the way back, I photographed them.
As I have said before, I am not a photographer and I rarely want to share my images but I’ll share this bit of fun.
‘ROBODUCK’ © Pete Brook
I was made aware of this set of photographs last week (sorry I forget the source!). They’re an interesting document of a bustling metropolis’ prison with an open program of movement, activity and an array of inmates.
The number of visitors and family members involved in many of the images leads me to think of this prison as an institution where people remained until the peculiarities of their situation could be agreed upon and then communicated to ensure release.
The social engagement of inmates with those from outside suggests to me (with an acknowledgement of harsh lockdown-modern-prisons) that the authorities of 1950s Mexico City either weren’t convinced of prisoners guilt, could be convinced otherwise, or simply didn’t map the denial of family-involvement on to the landscape of criminal punishment.
Schershel’s photographs recalled Richard Ross‘ image from Architecture of Authority. Schershel’s images doubled my visual knowledge of Mexican prisons, and so know I find myself in the unacceptable position that Mexican penitentiaries are – in my mind (at least temporarily) – the Palacio de Lecumberri … which means I have to do more research to get away from that inadequate knowledge base.
Until Schershel’s photo set, I had thought that Ross’ picture depicted a tower in the centre of a modestly-sized jail, but Schershel’s image puts the tower and rotunda into its larger setting (top left octant).
The governator wants to outsource California’s prisons to Mexico. Arnie went totally off script and blurted out an idea not even Matthew Cate, Secretary for the California Department of Corrections could, or would, back up.
Schwarzenegger suggested that outsourcing would save California $1billion/year, but couldn’t state from where he got the figure.
The idea is a non-starter for so many reasons. I know Arnie is desperate for solutions but he must at least be expected to stay within the realms of reality, no?
Corona and Cartagena both train their lenses on suburbia, not prisons (although the psychologies of the two architectures may converge?)
On the evidence of their photographs the construction industry in Mexico is booming, even if it is ugly.
Thanks to Katie DeGraff for the tip off on Arnie’s madness