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Video still from a surveillance camera in Richmond Heights Jail, St. Louis, Missouri. Anna Brown has just been carried into the cell and laid on the floor. She is dying.

Over on BagNewsNotes, Karen Hull has written a brief but poignant piece about the death of Anna Brown, a young, Black homeless woman. In particular, Hull considers the role surveillance cameras have played in the investigation into Brown’s death.

In September, 2011, Brown died in a jail cell in St. Louis, Missouri. She had visited three hospitals earlier in the evening complaining of pain in her legs but she was turned away by each of them. When she protested and insisted she needed treatment she was arrested and booked into jail. 15 minutes after they closed the door she was found dead. Brown had not used drugs, yet an officer later casually remarked and assumed she had.


Race, health care, and surveillance culture come simultaneously into play here. That the healthcare system can be reckoned as something other than a force for good is balanced by the good of a typical “evil”: surveillance. Without surveillance film, it’s possible the death of this young woman would have gone unnoticed. […] as much controversy as there is surrounding CCTV, rest assured that in the future, we will increasingly witness via surveillance.

The footage was attained by the St. Louis Dispatch via a sunshine request.

Full surveillance video of Anna Brown’s demise here. MSNBC provides the backstory.


Unfortunately, the mistake of authorities to think of a distressed woman as manic instead of in need of urgent medical attention is not unprecedented. In 2009, Cayne Miceli suffering an asthma attack was dragged away from a New Orlean’s hospital and put into a five point restraint in the Orleans Parish Prison. She was disruptive, fearful and loud, but the medical staff at the jail should have known the immediate threat to her life. She died of hypoxic brain injury, cardiac arrest and asthma, brought on by the horizontal position of her restraint.

Michael Shaw has been conscientiously restructuring BagNewsNotes over the past six months or so. Here’s how he describes the rebranded Bag:

• An almost hypnotizing archive featuring hundreds of ways to sort through our over 3000 image posts.

• A dedicated photojournalism section, BagNewsOriginals, steered by long-time BNN contributor, Alan Chin with a powerful lineup showcasing BAG’s distinguished contributor, Nina Berman, fresh off her Whitney Biennial success; World Press and Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Suau on the economy; and much, much more.

• A Salon section managed by the talented photographer and multimedia producer, Sandra Roa, formerly of the NYT Lens Blog, mixing audio slideshows and live chats, all focusing on key images of the day. We kick off on Wednesday with an audio slide show featuring Ashley Gilbertson’s look at the bedroom shrines of fallen US soldiers.

•  Our mainstay news image analysis by BAG publisher Michael Shaw, with new contributors, including: acclaimed photojournalist Chris Hondros conducting exclusive interviews; leading visual academics Bob Hariman and John Lucaites deconstructing visual culture; and former White House photographer, Stephen Ferry, on media’s pictorial stereotyping of the third world.


The Bag is all about demystifying (political) imagery and helping people along with visual literacy. Yes, audiences are more savvy, more sophisticated, but there is still a distance to go.

The Bag is the most persistent contributor to this ongoing analysis. The importance of the Bag’s ever critical eye cannot be underestimated in a world that sinks deeper into the swell of images every day.

The new look by designer Naz Hamid of Weightshift is super navigable and I think it is funny (humorous) that the Bag has made use of the same font used by the New York Times’ arts and media blogs.

The font choice is a cheeky nod to the subtle echoes of form and type that run through our daily visual experiences! It’s as if the Bag is testing its own hypothesis from within the permanent elements of its own visual architecture. That, and it doesn’t hurt to have subliminal associations with the Grey Lady!



Last year, Shaw contacted me and at the same time as describing Bag’s sweeping changes asked me if I’d come on-board as a contributor.

Writings on US prisons here on Prison Photography will be cross-posted to the Bag in order to bring images and issues of America’s prison industrial complex to a wider audience.

I’ve a got a couple of posts coming up this week so stay alert for those and for all that the Bag offers consequently.


prisonphotography [at] gmail [dot] com


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