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Okay, Jeff Barnett-Winsby did not aide and abet anyone.

He was, however, indelibly tied to a fugitive pair of lovers – one an inmate, the other a prison volunteer. Winsby had done a couple of photo series at Lansing Correctional Center, Michigan. He knew – and photographed – both John Manard and Toby Young before Young drove a van out the prison with a dog-crate in the back. Manard was in the dog-crate. They were on the run for twelve days until the authorities caught up with them in Tennessee.

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All the details about the police hunt and climactic high speed car chase, car crash and return to custody can be found here.

Toby was the founder and coordinator of the Safe Harbour Program, and John Manard, a dog-handler and Young’s escort within the prison. She was vulnerable, he was hopeful, they were close. Manard did most of the planning. “By the time he brought me in to what he was doing, I was in love with him and I couldn’t say no,” Young said. “I was not in a safe and sane place in my life, but I still could’ve said no, but I didn’t.” It seems like a straight up case of manipulation; a true power imbalance.

This tale is like something out of a movie. Jeff has muttered things about making a movie. We’ll see. At the very least, we can all look forward to his book Mark West & Molly Rose published J&L Books. Mark West and Molly Rose were Manard and Young’s aliases.

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Barnett-Winsby dissects events as he experienced them over at Feature Shoot:

‘Early on, after the escape, I was contacted by the prison. I had taken the latest photos of John and they needed images which featured his newer tattoos. These photos ran on America’s Most Wanted and in other newspapers around the country. I was obligated to give these photos and felt pretty conflicted.

‘After they were transfered back to Kansas, John wrote an open letter to a Kansas City TV station professing his love and Toby’s innocence. I started writing to John in response to this and we traded several letters over a couple months. In them, he covered much of the escape story and described what sounded like a honeymoon.

‘Post graduation, I decided I needed to see where they had been so I headed to Tennessee, rented the same cabin and stayed there for several days. I thought a lot about how I should be spending my time while in Tennessee.

‘What I realized was that my interest in this story was not specifically about the escape, it was about what they were escaping for. I think I was down there trying to honor that’.

Barnett-Winsby’s gloss portraiture is pretty atypical of prisoner representations. It’s very giving.

The accompanying images of prisoners and their dogs work as a foil to the straight portraits. Instantly, our response to the inmate changes. Barnett-Winsby plays on visual dissonance. He exposes our inbuilt prejudice and softness toward animals: “If someone loves an animal they can’t be violent, right?”

As well as Safe Harbor, Barnett-Winsby also photographed the objects in single occupancy cells for his project Marks of Intention (below).

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Barnett-Winsby has collapsed Safe Harbour and Marks of Intention along with images from the Mark West and Molly Rose story; it is a wide-reaching anthology of the Lansing facility and two lives that temporarily escaped its control.

You could say Barnett-Winsby had luck photographers only dream about when hunting for a good story.

Buy Mark West and Molly Rose.

Mark West and Molly Rose is published by J&L Books. The owner of J&L Books Jason Fulford was recently interviewed at Too Much Chocolate as was Jeff Barnett-Winsby.

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