There’s a couple of interviews with a couple of photographers I greatly admire currently up on Vice.
Photographing America’s Pregnant Prisoners is a conversation with Cheryl Hanna-Truscott, nurse, midwife and photographer who for 12 years has made double-portraits of incarcerated women and their babies at the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW).
In the past, I have flagged Hanna-Truscott’s work, curated it into a pop-up show about Washington State prisons, and featured it in online exhibitions. Hanna-Truscott has recently released Purdy a documentary film about the WCCW mothers and babies unit. Hanna-Truscott volunteers at WCCW.
A note on the film’s title: Purdy is the local town in which WCCW sits. Purdy is also how the prison is known to locals. Additionally, “purdy” is a hokey variation of the word pretty. I think it’s a clever title for this project which simultaneously challenges stereotypes, pays homage to maternal cycles, finds care and within a punishing institution but neither ties the issue off with easy answers.
Hanna Truscott’s photographs are moments of solace amid what she describes as beyond difficult circumstances for the mothers.
“A lot of the women are traumatized. Sometimes they have learning disabilities or they’ve never had anyone who could vouch for them – so they have low education levels and no skills. Which means they also have employment issues when they get out. When they’re released, get $40, a change of clothes and a bus ticket. So they have to start a new life — and for the women I work with, that’s also with a baby.”
Visit Hanna-Truscott’s devoted site Protective Custody.
NEW YORK STATE
Photographing Trips to Visit Family Members in Prison is an interview with Jacobia Dahm. I’ve spoken with Dahm previously (cross posted to Vantage) and her work has proved very popular since its release earlier this year.
Families have suffered most from the politicised decisions on where to construct prisons. Granted many Upstate New York prisons predate mass incarceration (1980-) but many many more have been constructed in recent decades. Across the nation prisons have been built in remote locations.
“Your crime has no bearing on the fact that you are still one of the most important people if not the most important person in a child’s life. In ways, it is costly not to support these family bonds, for the generation in prison and for their offspring. Children should have easy access to their parents, and vice versa, and it is something that other prison systems around the world manage to take into account and work with.”
If prisons had been used as jobs programs for depressed post-industrial American towns then we might have seen them built closer to the communities from which the prisoners have been extracted.
A NOTE ON VICE
Remember when VICE used to be nothing but public humiliation, photos of homeless, Dos & Don’ts and pre-hipster snark? Well, it is changing. By my reckoning. It’s going to take a lot to get out from under those punk-ass early years but they’re equipped to do it. VICE Media is worth $2.5 billion and I think I read somewhere that VICE has 1,500 staff and freelancers operating out of its New York HQ alone.
So, now what we have at VICE is genuine concern beyond the snark. This is something that Stacy Kranitz reflects on in a She Does Podcast published this week. It’s a great conversation all-round reflecting upon the many sides of things.
As for VICE and prison coverage, it looks like we’ll get more investigative reporting and less stereotypes and cheap gags. An overdue sea change. The VICE series America’s Incarcerated runs throughout October.