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As you know, I’m a great admirer of photography programs and mentorships for youth. Expression in the arts gives children their voice. I’ve even wondered if the empowerment provided through self-representation could benefit prisoners.

There exist dozens of important non-profits and volunteer programs helping youth of all backgrounds, including at-risk youth, to tell their stories through photography.

Organisations such as Youth in Focus, Seattle; AS220 Youth Photography Program, Providence, RI; New Urban Arts, Providence; First Exposures by SF Camerawork in San Francisco; The In-Sight Photography Project, Vermont; Leave Out ViolencE (LOVE), Nova Scotia; Inner City Light, Chicago; Focus on Youth and My Story in Portland, OR; Picture Me at the MoCP, Chicago; Eye on the Third Ward, Houston; The Bridge, Charlottesville, VA; the Red Hook Photography Project, New York; and Emily Schiffer’s My Viewpoint Photo Initiative are exemplars of youth empowerment through photography.

One of the leading participatory photography bodies is Photovoice in the UK. It has 50 programs in 23 countries.

This holiday season, Critical Exposure in Washington DC, a youth photo workshop organisation is raising money.

Simply and brilliantly, Critical Exposure – which was founded in 2004 – gives centre stage to Samera, one of the students. Watch it and celebrate the resilience and thoughtfulness of youth. It’s uncomplicated and effective storytelling, and you will be convinced of the undoubted value of these photography programs.

Samera is a compelling voice. After describing her own situation, she makes quite a simple request. She asks that schools within the same metropolitan area have better communication. She identified a fault in the system and she asked that it be fixed so others wouldn’t have to go through the same clumsy and disappointing mal-communications between Washington school district and a charter school. It’s a fair request.

Communities we shape for better, engender growth. Youths’ enthusiasm to be raised in an encouraging environment should not be neglected.

The Critical Exposure Holiday Giving 2012 page.

Through a website, positive networks, karma in the plus column, and not a small amount of effort, Kevin Miyazaki‘s Collect.Give has steadily been making the world a better place. It’s ridiculous that I’ve not sung the praises of Collect.Give‘s work here on PP before.

In just a few years, Collect.Give has raised tens of thousands of dollars through print sales for worthy charities hand-picked by the photographers themselves.

The latest offering is Love You by Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman. It is from their project Geolocation that, according to Larson, “tracks geotag coordinates associated with Twitter tweets and pairs the text with a photograph of the originating site to mark the virtual information in the real world.”

I’m still undecided about the merits of Geolocation. I saw it at Blue Sky Gallery recently. The images are well made and the concept is stronger than most, but I’m still not sure. Then again, I recently, I big-upped the work of Dan Gluibizzi because he has managed to find a constructive use of – and end point to – Tumblr, so I should be big-upping Larson and Shindelman’s Geolocation because they have managed to step back, find a constructive use of  – and an end point to – Twitter.

What really gets me excited, right now though, is the fact that all profits from the sales of Love You go to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

The SPLC is an incredibly effective and committed advocacy group of lawyers, researchers and paralegals based in Atlanta, Georgia. The SPLC “fights hate and bigotry and seeks justice for the most vulnerable members of our society.” Often this means providing legal assistance and representation to poor prisoners denied basic human rights during their incarceration, trial hearings and appeals.

I met with several staffers at the SPLC last year and was deeply impressed by SPLC’s work and deeply, deeply effected when I learnt about the inequalities of Southern states’ criminal justice systems. The SPLC mounts lawsuits within the states of Georgia and Alabama (two of the poorest states in the union) against inadequate medical care, prosecutorial misconduct and institutional abuse. Never before have I seen so clearly the link between the prison system and the social inequalities that feed it.

SPLC gives the voiceless the possibility of a voice, despite the obstacles.

Please support SPLC’s work.

© Nina Berman, from the series Homeland

Often the problems associated with large institutions is that they muster their own internal logic. Kathie Arseno’s account below describes a series of ridiculous actions, for which no single person in authority would surely want to take responsibility.

This account was sent to me by Nina Berman, with whom I spoke about Stop & Frisk. Astoundingly, Arseno’s account shows that the NYPD’s invasive policing commonly seen on the streets (Stop & Frisk) extends to the harassment of people in their homes (Arseno).

So, if you’re in NYC and are free in the morning head down to Bronx Criminal Court.

Dear Friends,

On September 3, 2011 I was arrested in the lower east side (Manhattan) for graffiti.  I made a plea.  I had to pay a fine of $145 and one day community service.  Manhattan criminal court lowered my charges from graffiti to disorderly conduct. I have not done graffiti since my first arrest.

I do not have the approximate date but late in January I was arrested a second time. It was around 10pm and I was sleeping in my home.  My son was with me. I get woken up by loud banging on the door. I wake up to four male officers at my door. I did open the door but just enough for them to see my face. Officer Pomrade stepped his foot into my apartment and I told him he is not allowed to do that, I did not invite him in and they did not have a warrant for my arrest. The officer became very aggressive and his supervisor told him to calm down. One officer was calling the precinct to see if I have any warrants. At this point I did let them into my home because I felt they were definitely not going to leave me alone. And the more I resisted they became visibly more agitated with me. The officer found out that I did have a bench warrant. My arresting officer said this automatically gives them the grounds to arrest me. They told me that I am being arrested for the graffiti I have done around the Bronx. I informed them that I have already been arrested and charged for graffiti in Manhattan. They said I am now being arrested and charged for the graffiti I have done in the Bronx prior to my first arrest. I began to cry because I was about to get arrested and my son was in the home.  They let me call his father so he can be picked up. His father was on his way after I called.

When I got off the phone the officers asked me to come in the next day after work to the precinct so we can straighten everything out. They did not want to disrupt my family or my work. This will allow me to make arrangements to make sure my son was taken care of. I walked into the precinct the next day and was handcuffed as soon as I entered. I asked if this is going to happen anytime someone sees my tag. They said since my name and tags are in the system I can be charged for the graffiti I have done in that particular area. The officer told me not to worry, that I should not get arrested again as long as I stop doing graffiti.

I met with Vandal Squad police officers Zimmerman, Dwyer, and Ogilus.  They said that I am not an artist they want to make an example out of.  They were pressing me for information on other graffiti writers. They also charged me and stated that from now on I shouldn’t be arrested anymore unless I am caught red handed in the streets. They said in the rare case the police come to my home again to give them a call and they will help the situation. I was arrested on Wednesday early in the afternoon and did not see the judge until 8pm Friday night. I missed too many days of work. My next scheduled court date was for April 25, 2012.

On March 31, 2012 as I was soaking in the bath and baking cupcakes with a friend for a party I was going to have that evening, at approximately 9PM my son runs into the bathroom to tell me the police are at the door. I quickly jump out the bathtub and put only a t-shirt and basketball shorts. I step out my home to speak to the officers. My arresting officer asked if I was Kathie Arseno and when I responded yes he grabbed my wrist and stated to me that I am being arrested. In handcuffs I asked if they had a warrant and they did not answer. I asked why I was being arrested and he said “You know why you are being arrested.”  Once in the precinct I was told the reason for my arrest. I was once again getting arrested for graffiti in the neighborhood.  I became very upset and started protesting. I asked that they call Officer Zimmerman from Vandal Squad and to let me call my lawyer.  I was never allowed to make a phone call.  The officer was going to release me.  I was having a conversation with another officer and he became highly upset stating that I think I can fool him. He threatened to have my son removed from me and actually called 911 and told them a crazy woman is having a breakdown when I refused to get up from my seat to walk into my jail cell.  I asked for water but they refused to bring me any. I was interrogated for about an hour by a female police officer who was pressing me to share information on other writers if I want to be let out. I remained silent and they sent me to central bookings around 6am Sunday morning.

I was seen by the judge early afternoon on Sunday. My lawyer claimed double jeopardy and my case was dismissed without any charges.

On April 25, 2012 I went to court and the sentences they were trying to give me ranged from 5 to 90 days in jail with probation and community service.  I did not accept any of the offers and my court date was adjourned for July 25, 2012.  It still boggles me that I was caught red handed in Manhattan and was not charged with a crime but the Bronx has no evidence against me other than my prior arrest in Manhattan and I am facing these harsh sentences.

On May 18, 2012 around 10:15PM I had two police officers from the 44th precinct come to my apartment and try to arrest me for graffiti, again. I asked if they had a search warrant or a warrant for my arrest. They did not have any warrants so I did not agree to accompany them to the precinct. They told me I have two options, I can either voluntary go to their precinct or they will make a report to vandal squad and they will come to my home at anytime. I told them I will get in contact with my lawyer. And they left. I quickly emailed and left a message with my lawyer who advised me to remain silent at all times because they cannot keep arresting me for the same crime. She said she will get in contact with the A/DA assigned to my case to advise police officers to quit arresting me for the same crime. I have not had an officer come to my home since then.

On July 25, 2012 is my next court case at 9:30am. I am asking you to come to Bronx Criminal Court and show some support.  My life has never been the same since my second arrest. Having officers come to my home three times to arrest you for the same crime has disrupted my family’s life completely. I even had to take a week off work after my last arrest because I could not sit through a  meeting at work without breaking down in tears because of all the harassment and verbal abuse I had experienced. I literally had all my rights taken away from me in seconds. One minute I am home with my son and the next I am in a jail cell for a crime I already paid for. I know for a fact I am not the only one dealing with this type of harassment and I think its important for our community to make a stand and let them know that this is unacceptable.

Please forward this to any people or organizations who will like to show support.

Peace and Love, Kathie Arseno

Artist’s impression of projected cellphone imagery.


Stop, a video installation will put faces to the numbers – hundreds of thousands – of people who are unjustly detained by police.

Stop is proposed by New York based Dread Scott and by Joann Kushner, an artist working in Liverpool, UK. As described by Dread Scott:

Stop will be a projection of portraits of several youth from East New York, Brooklyn and Liverpool, UK. Brooklyn will be on one wall and Liverpool will face them on the other. The life-sized projections will stand and face each other, the audience will be in the middle. Over time, each of the young adults will reveal how many times they have each been stopped by the police during their lifetime. The youth will be having a virtual “conversation” across an ocean with each other as well as with the audience.”


Yesterday, I posted a long conversation with Nina Berman about Stop & Frisk. Berman had not found any other fellow photographers working on the issue of Stop & Frisk. I found one other photographer (who’s work is ongoing and wishes not to publicize it yet) and one artist – Dread Scott.

Dread’s a lovely guy; I’ve written about his work on the prison industrial complex before and I interviewed him last year during PPOTR. Here’s what he says about this Stop & Frisk and this project:

“Last year, New York police stopped almost 700,000 people as part of their “Stop and Frisk” policy. The overwhelming majority, about 90%, were doing nothing wrong at the time and were completely innocent. Most were young and Black or Latino. A similar policy exists in Liverpool and developed after NY police chief William Bratton was invited to be a consultant in another UK city, Hartlepool, in 1996.”

It should be added that UK Prime Minister David Cameron wanted to appoint Bratton as Commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police Service following the London Riots of August 2011. Cameron was later overruled by Home Secretary Theresa May, who insisted that only a British citizen should be able to run the Service.

Dread has led photography and art workshops with young adults from East NY Brooklyn (a neighborhood with one of the city’s highest police Stop and Frisk rates) and Joann has been working with similar youth in Liverpool. Using cell phones, students have made a powerful series of photographs about their neighborhoods and lives.

Stop will be exhibited in Rush Arts Gallery, NYC from September 13th, 2012.


Kickstarter has definitely reached its saturation point; The Onion’s take made me laugh hardest.

But you don’t even need to feel guilty about this one; Dread’s already reached his target (sure, he’d like a little extra: who doesn’t?)

What’s more important is the message of his work. Until now, I’ve never seen connections made between the US and the UK – between New York and Liverpool – over the Stop & Frisk issue. The issue is rarely framed within the context of youth; we don’t think of the victims as kids … but in many cases they are.

Stop & Frisk is a canary issue. How the controversy resolves itself will be an indication of whether we have progressed; if we are interested and involved in the welfare of others, or if we remain indifferent. It’s driven by Homeland Security dollars and it messes with peoples’ lives. It’s born out of a divided society, just as prisons were. Now the heavy-handed response is on peoples’ doorsteps.

I Heart Gordon Stettinius’ humour. Especially in light of the horrendous Olympian portraits, this work seems like a good time to reflect on why and how we make (bad) portraits.

Diego Garcia Island, Indian Ocean, United Kingdom Territory. Rendition Flights Refuelled on the Island in 2002.

Diego Garcia Island, Indian Ocean, United Kingdom Territory. Rendition Flights Refuelled on the Island in 2002.

Two years ago, I used the above map to illustrate a piece about extraordinary rendition. Located between the east coast of Africa and the West coast of India, Diego Garcia is the largest of the Chagos Islands and until the 1960s had a permanent native population going back generations.

The United States wanted a Pacific military base and they British wanted the friendship. The Chagosians people were obstacles to the UK and US plans.

Stealing A Nation by John Pilger lays out in devastating simplicity how two of the mightiest powers lied their way into their own legal machinations in order to cheat over 2,000 people. The Chagosians were forcibly removed and those that haven’t died “of sadness” continue to live in squalor in Mauritius.

I challenge you not to be angry.

I saw Mary Lydecker‘s Postcard Studies (2010) at the Day Job exhibition at Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA)*

For me, the freakiest thing about Lydecker’s collages is that many of her dystopian constructs don’t look that implausible, especially when we consider the photographs of “familiar” infrastructure in works by Mitch Epstein, Simon Roberts, maudlin landscape photographers and the Atomic Photographers Guild.

To illustrate my point, check out my holiday snap from the high-class Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles:

Here’s a couple of PNCA installation shots, but you really should go and browse Lydecker’s whole collection on her website.

*Incidentally, Day Job was curated by Nina Katchadourian – her of Flemish-toilet-seat-cover-iPhone-aeroplane-cubicle-self-portrait renown.

I’ve never seen a photo festival try to Kickstart operations costs, but Photoville seems to be breaking conventions at will.

I’ve been reluctant to plug Photoville’s Kickstarter because it seems weird to raise cash that goes into the bigger pot of cash for a festival that is happening anyway.

I also have an ambivalent relationship to Kickstarter, despite my own personal massive benefit from the platform. Add to that fact, that Photoville is exhibiting my co-curated show Cruel and Unusual, you can confidently peg me in the “conflicted and making-no-sense” hole.

I hope you and Photoville appreciate my honesty, here. I think Sam and the team at Photoville will because they’ve been positive, rays of sunshine throughout the organisation of Cruel and Unusual. I think we’re solid.

Enough confessional.

You’ve got six hours to throw your money in the big pot.


prisonphotography [at] gmail [dot] com


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