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Collectors Weekly looks back at Johnny Cash’s famous performances in Folsom and San Quentin, as photographed by legendary music photographer Jim Marshall:

The most famous image from the day, though, is unquestionably the candid shot of Cash taken during a rehearsal before the show. […] Marshall recalls the origins of what he believed was “probably the most ripped off photograph in the history of the world. […] I said ‘John, let’s do a shot for the warden.’” Apparently, that’s all the prompting Cash needed to look straight into Marshall’s lens and flip him the bird.

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Daniel Etter‘s project from Hohenschonhausen piggybacks on the story of Norbert Krebs to shape the narrative. Krebs was imprisoned in Hohenschonhausen – the primary Stasi Prison in the GDR – for questioning the reliability of election results. He now leads guided tours. In sites such as these, it is a solemn privilege to hear the first-hand experiences of anyone persecuted by prior political powers.

It is as much a dilemma for communities and nations as it is an opportunity to write and affirm history, when former prisons are repurposed. Prison museums, peace museums and memorials are all common solutions to the troublesome, contested and understandably hated sites.

Prison museums are very common – here’s a (non exhaustive) list of links.

US

Alcatraz Island
Texas Prison Museum
Angola Prison Museum, Louisiana
San Quentin Prison Museum
Folsom Prison Museum
Eastern State Penitentiary
Sing Sing Prison Museum
Old Montana Prison Museum
Burlington County Prison Museum
Museum of Colorado Prisons
Wyoming Frontier Prison

Elsewheres

Dartmoor Prison Museum, England
Lancaster Castle, England
The Clink Prison Museum, London
Robben Island Museum, South Africa
Port Arthur Historic Site, Tasmania, Australia
Fremantle Prison, Western Australia
Abashiri Prison Museum, Japan
The Changi Museum, Singapore
Kresty Prison Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

If your interest is piqued, consult this huge inventory of prison museums from across the globe.

And here’s a random selection of photographs of a selection of prison museums.

Note: I have touched upon Hohenschonhausen before here and here.

“I thought it was about the right policies and the right principle. It is really about the money.”

Jeanne Woodford, Former Warden of San Quentin and Former Secretary of the CDC, on the California prison system.

On one occasion in the past, I drew both criticism and praise for an unapologetically emotive tone. In that instance it was on the colliding social issues of Hospitals, Schools & Prisons.

Yesterday, with Beds in Gymnasiums: Prison Guards and Prison Overcrowding in California, I feel I may have ventured into similar territory as per my thoughts on the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA). Consider this post a back up and not a back down of my previous sentiments. Consolidation is good for the soul.

So, allow me to describe two important podcasts I listened to yesterday and today and hopefully the dots will join themselves.

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF FOLSOM & CALIFORNIA PRISONS

Folsom Embodies California’s Prison Blues (NPR) traces the decay of the California Department of Corrections from heights I wasn’t even aware of. Apparently, in the late 70s Folsom Prison was the shining light of progressive American prison cultures. All prisoners lived in their own cells, virtually every inmate was enlisted in a program or had a job, and upon release very few of them returned. It was record envied across the US.

Today, over 4,400 men live in the facility designed for 1,800. Folsom is entirely segregated by race. Education, rehabilitation and work programs are down to a few classes with a waiting list of over 1,000. Folsom and California has the worst recidivism rate of any state – over 70% will return to prison within three years.

The real juice of this podcast is the look at the history of this situation: the lobbying millions of the CCPOA, the disguised money, the pandering and the electioneering. Jeanne Woodford, an inspiring and honest inside voice, talks about how the CDC was hamstrung by the CCPOA’s power. Her sentiments are echoed by the Secretary who succeeded her.

LEVEL OF INEQUALITY vs. LEVEL OF AFFLUENCE

For the past twelve months British comic/rabblerouser, Mark Thomas, has made sense of the global recession by interviewing ‘good’ bankers, economists and policy gurus. All of these are available via podcast.

Professor Richard Wilkinson talks about Western nations and their success/failure in providing a good quality of life for their citizens.

The theory backed up by reputable statistics (WHO and others) is that social problems are more acute in countries with the most inequality. Affluence has nothing to do with social harmony. Wide differences in affluence can destroy social harmonies.

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Wilkinson notes in countries such as Japan, Sweden and Finland the richest 20% are 4 times richer than the 20% poorest. In Britain, US and Portugal the richest 20% are 9 times richer than the poorest 20%. In the more inequitable countries depression and mental health problems are more widespread; there is more friction in family life as reflected in the harshness of the unjust society. Wilkinson questions the psychological landscape of western nations and asks, “What sort of society I am growing up in? Will I be fairly treated?”

Inequality is about dominance – not reciprocity – which explains why the harshest sentencing (subjugation) exists in America – the most unequal of societies. Wilkinson goes on to discuss prison systems and how their harshness is in direct correlation with social inequality. IT’S A MUST LISTEN.

On the increase of the prison population in the US, Wilkinson quotes estimates that only 10-20% of the increase is due to increased crime.* The remainder is due to more punitive sentencing.

In possession of this information, we must think about how crime, sentencing and prisons relate to society – YES, PRISONS ARE WITHIN NOT OUTSIDE OF SOCIETY. And that said, I’ll be making a return on this blog to discussion of our exposure to, and consumption of, images of prisons and prisoners.

*Both the UK and the US have been incarcerating more and more people, while crime has been falling.

“The Gay Essay is comparable in magnitude to Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans’…the exhibit in its entirety is amazingly strong. And for the most part the photographs are singularly beautiful in execution.”

San Francisco Art Week, 1973

Sun Reflections on Wave, Zuma Beach, CA, 2000. Anthony Friedkin. Photography - Silver Print. 16 x 20 inches

Sun Reflections on Wave, Zuma Beach, CA, 2000. Anthony Friedkin. Photography - Silver Print. 16 x 20 inches.

This weekend is Pride and today (Sunday) the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots; an event generally regarded as the beginning of the modern gay rights movement. To mark the occasion DRKRM Gallery in Los Angeles is exhibiting Anthony Friedkin’s Gay, A Photographic Essay 1969 – 1972.

Friedkin isn’t your run of the mill photographer. He’d likely balk at the top-heavy marketing necessary by the individual photographer to survive in today’s game. He doesn’t seem to have searched out publicity or reviews and never chased the recognition of the fine art world. There’s next to nothing written about him on the internet which supports my theory that he is of a different generation and different ethos.

He is  a name not commonly known. This, of course, is our loss and not his.

Woman by the Pool, Beverly Hills Hotel, CA, 1975. Anthony Friedkin. Photography - Silver Gelatin Print. 16 x 20 inches

Woman by the Pool, Beverly Hills Hotel, CA, 1975. Anthony Friedkin. Photography - Silver Gelatin Print. 16 x 20 inches

Dan, Male prostitute, San Fernando Valley. Anthony Friedkin. 1972

Dan, Male prostitute, San Fernando Valley. Anthony Friedkin. 1972

Friedkin is as “California” as Henry Wessel. He is as culturally vital to the West Coast gay communities as Leigh Bowery was to London’s. Friedkin’s fascination with the couture and characters of subculture in the American West is on a par with that of Richard Avedon.

Friedkin was a one man Hamburger Eyes long before the zygote of Hamburger Eyes’ uncowed lens fell down the photo community fallopian tube.

A native of Los Angeles, Anthony Friedkin began photographing as a child. He started working in the darkroom at age eleven, processing and printing his own images. Since the early 1960’s, he has accomplished a significant body of work.

Friedkin’s projects include The Gay Essay done in San Francisco and Los Angeles in 1969 and 1970; The Beverly Hills Essay shot in 1975; The Hollywood Series began in 1978 continues to this day; and The Ocean-Surfing Essay which explores Friedkin’s intimate, intensely personal relationship with the surf and waves. For most of his life he has been photographing Los Angeles creating an unparalleled body of work informed by his love of the diverse conurbation.

Of all his major photographic series, only one documents life outside the Golden State (New York City Brothels).

Clockwork Malibu, Rick Dano on the Highway, Malibu, CA. Anthony Friedkin. 1977. Photography - Silver Print. 16 x 20 inches

Clockwork Malibu, Rick Dano on the Highway, Malibu, CA. Anthony Friedkin. 1977. Photography - Silver Print. 16 x 20 inches

Debbie with her Head in the Sand, Venice, CA. Anthony Friedkin. 1980. Silver Print. 11 x 14 inches

Debbie with her Head in the Sand, Venice, CA. Anthony Friedkin. 1980. Silver Print. 11 x 14 inches

Prison Photography is particularly interested in Friedkin’s photographic record of California Prisons and their inmates. The only image I have to present here is Four Convicts, Folsom Prison, CA (1991) [bottom].

California Prisons includes sensitive portrait shots of incarcerated teenagers, as well as the many typical representations of machismo and gang affiliated men.

I do not know if the series includes photographs of female prisoners, but this and many other unanswered questions now await a curious future…

I’d be very interested to hear from readers who’ve attended exhibition of the work and have any lasting impressions.

Android Sisters, Universal Studios, Hollywood, CA. Anthony Friedkin. 1978. Silver Print.

Android Sisters, Universal Studios, Hollywood, CA. Anthony Friedkin. 1978. Silver Print.

Jaws, Universal Studios, Hollywood, CA. Anthony Friedkin. 1978. Photograph. Silver Print.

Jaws, Universal Studios, Hollywood, CA. Anthony Friedkin. 1978. Photograph. Silver Print.

It is Friedkin’s devotion to the unexpected that distinguishes his work. He disarms the extraordinary and educates his audience. Friedkin presents outlying cultures without a second thought; he surrounded himself with these people and paid them total respect.

“They were defining their sense of freedom and individuality,” says Friedkin, who choose at the time to portray Gay people who refused to conform to society’s values. “I wanted to depict their struggles, humiliations, and their triumphs.”

As objective as the camera can be, it was so when in Friedkin’s hands and directed at people. Particularly, in documenting Gay culture, Friedkin was never reductive; he photographed the ‘wide-ranging composite … young hustlers, drag queens, transsexuals, San Francisco entertainers; a Gay Liberation parade in Hollywood; two lesbian women very much in love; effeminate boys growing up in an environment of machismo and the religious subculture typical of East Los Angeles.’

Four Convicts, Folsom Prison, CA. Anthony Friedkin. 1991. Silver Print. 16 x 20 inches

Four Convicts, Folsom Prison, CA. Anthony Friedkin. 1991. Silver Print. 16 x 20 inches.

Friedkin’s close tie to California, and especially Los Angeles, is conspicuous in his work as a still photographer for the movie industry. He makes the distinction himself between the circles of Hollywood and the tradition gallery circuit as evidenced by his use of ‘Tony’ Friedkin for movie credit-lines. Work on Crips and Bloods: Made in America and an appearance as himself in Dog Town & Z-Boys tie Friedkin indelibly to the California cultures of today and yesteryear.

Anthony Friedkin has over forty years experience as a professional photographer. He started out as a photojournalist working as a stringer for Magnum photos in Los Angeles. For the past twenty-five years Anthony Friedkin has lived and worked out of his apartment studio in Santa Monica. Currently, he is preparing a book of his Ocean-Wave photographs. Friedkin’s photographs are included in major Museum collections including the Museum of Modern Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, San Francisco MoMA and The J. Paul Getty Museum. His work has been published in Japan, Russia, Europe, in many Fine Art publications in America and in magazines such as Rolling Stone, Newsweek, French Zoom and Malibu Magazine. For a full resume click here.

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