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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.


We have all become very familiar with the horror stories of violence resulting from virtual open warfare between the Mexican government and the drug cartels in Northern Mexico. On the topic, I can’t recommend enough Dominic Bracco II‘s work from Ciudad Juarez. That said, Juarez and the US/Mexico border is, in many cases, a long way from other towns and cities across the expansive Northern Mexico deserts. It is through this landscape that the drug trade operates, corrupts, benefits, endows and murders – both individuals and communities.


In one such town, Guachochi in the State of Chihuahua, photographer Oskar Landi stumbled across the Centro de Reabilitacion Social (CE.RE.SO). Landi had the opportunity to photograph prisoners in this scorched, sleepy jail during their open-air break.

On the evidence of Landi’s photographs, CE.RE.SO is not a maximum security prison of hardened criminals; oversight seems minimal; male and female, young and old mix; uncertainty hums in the air. If they have anything in common with one another, these prisoners look lost.

Oskar sent me his images, but knowing very little about the town and region, it is only responsible to let his words speak.

“Members of usually non-violent indigenous communities, the Tarahumaras and Tepehuanes, make up the majority of the prison population,” says Landi. “These sober portraits belie the intricate, complex and dramatic history of Mexico’s indigenous community.”

Discrimination is routine.

“The indigenous are often considered inferior because of their dark skin, traditional clothes and customs. As with the rest of the Americas, Mexico’s indigenous population endured invasion, violence and Christianization by the Europeans. This history still haunts their local daily life,” he says.

Guachochi is the largest city in a vast, remote rural region inhabited by both indigenous communities and a relatively much larger number of mixed race people, referred to collectively as mestizos.

“In an area where isolation has helped maintain indigenous culture, extreme poverty and vacant land has also contributed to the spread of illegal drug production as did the birth and collapse of the economic bubble between the late-1980s and mid-1990s,” he says.

“As profits diminished, large quantities of alcohol and weapons were introduced into these isolated communities, soon leading to an increase in violence between the mestizos and the indigenous groups. Honour also plays a central role in the violent conflicts that take place, as intricate circumstances provoke an endless cycle of violence and revenge,” Landi concludes.


Oskar Landi (b. Italy) has lived and worked in New York since 1998. He attended the International Center of Photography and has a certificate in cinematography from New York University. A successful editorial portraitist, Landi has photographed some of the world’s most renowned artists and innovators. He has worked commercially for Armani, Levi’s, The Village Voice, Bon Appetit, FN Magazine, Style, DDN Magazine, Runner’s Magazine, Wienerin. His personal projects have been recognized by the International Photo Awards and Prix de la Photographie Paris. Landi’s work is distributed by Anzenberger Agency.

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 KnightJoao PinaJackie Dewe MatthewsValerio BispuriPedro LoboVance Jacobs and Columbian prisonerstourist photography in Bolivian prisonsprison tattoos (some from Central America)Kate Orlinksky’s portraits of Mexican female prisoners Fabio Cuttica at a Columbian prison beauty pageantPatricia Aridjis in Mexico – even Cornell Capa was in Latin American prisons at one time.

– – – – –

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.


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.


FRA France  – JR
MEX Mexico – Livia Corona
RSA South Africa – Mikhael Subotzky
URU Uruguay – Martín Batallés


ARG Argentina – Marcos Lopez
GRE Greece – George Georgiou (Born in London to Greek Cypriot parent)
KOR South Korea – Ye Rin Mok
NGA Nigeria – George Osodi


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


AUS Australia – Stephen Dupont
GER Germany – August Sander
GHA Ghana – Philip Kwame Apagya
SRB Serbia – Boogie


CMR Cameroon – Barthélémy Toguo
DEN Denmark – Henrik Knudsen
JPN Japan – Araki
NED Netherlands – Rineke Dijkstra


ITA Italy – Massimo Vitali
NZL New Zealand – Robin Morrison
PAR Paraguay – ?????
SVK Slovakia – Martin Kollar


BRA Brazil – Sebastiao Selgado
CIV Ivory Coast – Ananias Leki Dago
PRK North Korea – Tomas van Houtryve (it was difficult to find a North Korean photographer)
POR Portugal – Joao Pina


CHI Chile – Sergio Larrain
HON Honduras – Daniel Handal
ESP Spain – Alberto García Alix
SUI Switzerland – Jules Spinatsch

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


Frank Schershel. Photos licensed for personal non-commercial use only by LIFE

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.

Frank Schershel. Photos licensed for personal non-commercial use only by LIFE

Frank Schershel. Photos licensed for personal non-commercial use only by LIFE

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.

Palacio de Lecumberri (former prison) Mexico City, Mexico 2006. © Richard Ross

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).

Frank Schershel. Photos licensed for personal non-commercial use only by LIFE

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?

In a loose tangential thread, I have been impressed recently by the works of Livia Corona and Alejandro Cartagena.

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.

© Livia Corona. From the series, 'Two Million Homes for Mexico'

© Alejandro Cartagena. From the series, 'Fragmented Cities'

Thanks to Katie DeGraff for the tip off on Arnie’s madness


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