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Book cover: Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes

In the early 1990s, photographer Susan Madden Lankford rented an old San Diego jail for commercial photography. She soon attracted the interest of the homeless in the area, who before long they began to befriend her, trust her intentions and to tell her about their world. She was making a living as a successful studio photographer but was not fulfilled.

“My life and my photography were full of plastic portraiture. Images of individuals wanting the ‘right image’ and not the one with real expression and life.”

She soon embarked on a three publication project looking at the underclass of her home city. downTown U.S.A.: A Personal Journey with the Homeless was her first book, soon followed by Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes about the incarceration of women and children. Lankford is soon to release a documentary film about the criminal justice system.

Inmate Behind Chain Link Fence. Las Colinas Detention Facility for Women in Santee, California. Photo by Susan Madden Lankford. Taken from the book, “Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time,” by Susan Madden Lankford, Humane Exposures Publishing. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.

The “Safety Cell” Used for Solitary Confinement. Las Colinas Detention Facility for Women in Santee, California. Photo by Susan Madden Lankford. Taken from the book, “Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time,” by Susan Madden Lankford, Humane Exposures Publishing. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.

This Is My Family. Las Colinas Detention Facility for Women in Santee, California. Photo by Susan Madden Lankford. Taken from the book, “Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time,” by Susan Madden Lankford, Humane Exposures Publishing. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.

BIOGRAPHY

Lankford studied with Ansel Adams and is a graduate of the Brooks Institute in San Diego. Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes won the following awards: Publishers Weekly – Best Books of the Year, Web Pick of the Week; ForeWord Magazine – Book of the Year, Silver Award – Social Science; ForeWord Magazine – Book of the Year, Bronze Award – Women’s Issues; Independent Publisher Book Awards – Gold Medal, Women’s Issues; 2008 DIY Book Festival – Grand Prize Best Book of the Year; 2009 Eric Hoffer Book Awards – Grand Prize. Lankford’s work is the basis for the new film, It’s More Expensive to Do Nothing releasing this fall 2010.

More on Lankford from the San Diego Union-Tribune here.

Five-part lecture given by Lankford can be viewed. First part here.

You can find out more about her projects at Humane Exposures and get updates on the Humane Exposures Blog.

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