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© Michael Jang

As far as I know, Michael Jang has not taken a photograph inside a prison … but he has been to many other altered sites.

My good friends Brendan Seibel (words) and Keith Axline (photos) did the real deal this week with an interview and gallery over at Raw File.

Blake followed a train of thought set up by Bryan this week about photography’s late-bloomers. Jang might have words of encouragement along the same lines. He hasn’t exactly had the typical career track; he was exhibiting at a high school seven years ago.

And photographs can change:

Put [a photo] away and let it age like a fine wine. … Some of the work I question, like the Beverly Hilton or the Jangs, if it would have been good when it first came out, or appreciated. I think maybe not. I think maybe you need to age 30 years so that we can look back on it.

Jang comes across as a man who has as few answers as the rest of us:

In the ’70s you could pick a subject: freaks, twins, brothers and sisters, and you’d be the first one to get it. Everyone’s done everything now. You’ve got dead body parts — we’ve done everything. So how do you carve out a niche for yourself now as a photographer? Is it more about the best person who can market themselves? The best schmoozer? The person who can make the connections? It’s a whole new ball game. I don’t know what I would do now.

Times were raw and opportune back then:

In the ’70s I happened to get a guy who committed suicide in Golden Gate Park. I knew I had the only pictures — I sold that stuff to the 11 o’clock news. But now it’s like, “send it to us for free” and you go, “yeah, I can get my name on there.” That kind of sucks for photographers making a living, right? It’s just so diluted now.

And, Jang’s response to the uncertainty? Keep shooting.

My daughter had friends that were in a band in high school and I said, “Oh man, can I shoot this?” and she said, “No! … Oh please? … No!” So what happened is they played the band shell in Golden Gate Park one day on a Saturday. Look, that’s fair game. They’re out in public. So I go there and I’m laying back; I don’t want to embarrass my kid. Eventually I start shooting and one kid kind of comes up and he starts talking to me and I end up telling him that I shot The Ramones. And that was it.


© Michael Jang

Jang also photographed around Preston, ID where Napoleon Dynamite was filmed.


prisonphotography [at] gmail [dot] com


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