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Friend of Prison Photography, Emiliano Granado, likes football as much as he rocks at photography.

We pooled our knowledge to pair each country competing in South Africa with a photographer of the same nationality.


FRA France  – JR
MEX Mexico – Livia Corona
RSA South Africa – Mikhael Subotzky
URU Uruguay – Martín Batallés


ARG Argentina – Marcos Lopez
GRE Greece – George Georgiou (Born in London to Greek Cypriot parent)
KOR South Korea – Ye Rin Mok
NGA Nigeria – George Osodi


ALG Algeria – Christian Poveda
ENG England – Stephen Gill
SVN Slovenia – Klavdij Sluban (French of Slovenian origin … I know, I know, but you try to find a Slovenia born photographer!)
USA United States – Bruce Davison


AUS Australia – Stephen Dupont
GER Germany – August Sander
GHA Ghana – Philip Kwame Apagya
SRB Serbia – Boogie


CMR Cameroon – Barthélémy Toguo
DEN Denmark – Henrik Knudsen
JPN Japan – Araki
NED Netherlands – Rineke Dijkstra


ITA Italy – Massimo Vitali
NZL New Zealand – Robin Morrison
PAR Paraguay – ?????
SVK Slovakia – Martin Kollar


BRA Brazil – Sebastiao Selgado
CIV Ivory Coast – Ananias Leki Dago
PRK North Korea – Tomas van Houtryve (it was difficult to find a North Korean photographer)
POR Portugal – Joao Pina


CHI Chile – Sergio Larrain
HON Honduras – Daniel Handal
ESP Spain – Alberto García Alix
SUI Switzerland – Jules Spinatsch

Emiliano has been posting images from each of the photographers and doubled up on a few nations where the talent pool is teeming. You can see them all over on his Tumblr account, A PILE OF GEMS


* Don’t even begin arguing about who should represent the USA. It is a never-ending debate.

* I’ll be honest, finding photographers for the African nations was tricky, even for a web-search-dork like myself. But then we knew about the shortcomings of distribution and promotion within the industry, didn’t we?

* For Chile, we had to look to the past legend Larrain. I’ll be grateful if someone suggest a living practitioner.

* North Korean photographer, by name, anyone? We had to fall back on van Houtryve because he got inside the DPR.

* Rineke Dijkstra was one of approximately 4 thousand-trillion dutch photographers who are everywhere.

* Araki was the easy choice. Ill admit – I know next to nothing about Japanese photography (Marc, help?)

* I wanted a few more political photographers in there, while Emiliano goes for arty stuff. I think we found a nice balance overall.

* And, SERIOUSLY, name me a Paraguayan photographer! PLEASE.




Ilka Hartmann

Belva Cottier and a young Chicano man during the Occupation of Alcatraz Island, May 31, 1970. Photo: © 2009 Ilka Hartmann

Today marks the fortieth anniversary of the start of the Indian Occupation of Alcatraz, an action that lasted over eighteen months until June 11th 1971.

Photographic documents of the time are surprisingly scant. Over the past few decades, Ilka Hartmann‘s work has appeared almost ubiquitously in publications about the Indian Occupation. We spoke by telephone about her experiences, the dearth of Native American photographers, the Black Panthers, Richard Nixon, the recent revival of academic research on the occupation and what she’ll be doing to mark the anniversary.

Your entire career has been devoted to social justice issues, particularly the fight for Native American rights. Did your interest begin with the Alcatraz occupation?

No, it began earlier. I came the U.S. in 1964 and that was during the human rights movement. I was a student at the time but I really wanted to go and work with the Native Americans on the reservations of Southern California. I was connected to the Indian community here through a friend who had emigrated to California earlier. I learnt very early about the conditions for American Indians. It reminded my of what I had learnt as a teenager about Nazi rule.

When the occupation began I wanted to go but I couldn’t because I was not Native American, but I waited until 1970.

Concurrently you were photographing the Black Panther movement – centered in Oakland – and the other counter culture movements of the late sixties in the Bay Area. How did they relate to one another?

They were all the same, each group struggling to advertise their conditions, the police brutality and the lack of educational and cultural institutions. I was involved in the fights for American Indians, African Americans, Chicano and Asian Americans in Berkeley. We were protesting as part of the Third World Strike. For me everything was connected and it was the same people who were speaking up later at Alcatraz.

My new book is actually about the relations between the different groups of the civil rights movement. There was a lot of solidarity between groups. The Black Panther Party understood this.  Many people think that the Black Panthers were concentrated on their own politics but they understood solidarity and got a lot of help from non-Black people. If you look at my pictures of the Black Panther movement a lot of supporters were the white students of Berkeley. There is a saying, “The suffering of one, is the suffering of everybody”.

In the Bay Area people were so willing to help the Indians at Alcatraz and help in the Black Panther movement and they really felt things were going to change.

I was a student at UC Berkeley and stopped in February 1970. I went to Alcatraz in May of 1970. I had learnt to open my eyes and emotions at UC Berkeley through all the different groups we had.

How many times did you visit Alcatraz during the occupation? And how long did you stay each time?

I only went twice to the island. It is funny because I didn’t even know if my photographs would turn out. I had a camera that I’d borrowed from a friend with a 135 mm Pentax lens … and also a Leica that a friend have given me too. But I didn’t have a light-meter for the Leica so I didn’t know if the photographs I took in the fog would come out. It was so light. I was amazed that they came out. I also went over in a small boat that same year.

So I made contact sheets and tried to get them published which was a big problem because you had to really work on that. My first picture of the occupation was published in an underground paper called the Berkeley Barb then in June 1971 I was at KQED, a Northern California Television station, for an interview with an art editor. I had hitch-hiked there from the area north of San Francisco and I just opened my box of pictures to show him topics I was concerned about when over the intercom came an announcement “The Indians are being taken from Alcatraz.”

I saw some video guys run by, I grabbed my bag and camera and asked them if I could join them. They said, “Yes, ride with us and say you are with us.” We got into an old VW and drove around on the mainland to see the occupiers and that is how I got those shots of the removal. It was an incredible coincidence because I actually lived far from the city. It’s quite incredible. I only went two times during the occupation and then I got those shots afterward.

Ilka Hartmann
Atha Rider Whitemankiller at the Senator Hotel in San Francisco after the removal of the Indian Occupiers from Alcatraz. Whitemankiller was a courageous and eloquent speaker to the press that day. His face reflects the disappointment felt by those who occupied the island for nineteen months but lost the final battle. June 11, 1971. Photo Ilka Hartmann

From then on I made contact with people and in that year I showed my pictures at an Indian Women’s conference, making very good friends with people in the American Indian movement. From then on I went to cultural events, powwows and so on and my pictures appeared in the underground press. I wrote articles and people contacted me for images. That’s how I made the connection.

So really you made no arrangements?

I didn’t make any arrangements. I followed everything from the first day in the papers and on that day in May … on May 30th the Indians asked all the journalists to go and I wanted to be there. That’s how it all started; they invited us there that day.

Did you realize at the time how profound an historical event it was?

Yes, I always felt how important it was. This was the first time they [Native Americans] spoke up. All over the world people wrote about it and the cause became known globally, and especially known in the United States. I believed in it … I still do.

What are your lasting memories of your time and work during the occupation?

It was a prison that had been closed so it was surrounded by barbed wire fence. Some of it had become loose and I took some pictures. The wire swung loose in the air and there was a sound across the island of the wind whispering over it. And if you looked out over the beautiful waters, you really got the sense – with the barbed wire – that the Indians were prisoners, as well as occupiers of the Bay. Prisoners of the Bay; which means prisoners of the World. In that sense I really had a strong feeling of the prison.

How did you react to the environment?

For me, strangely, the experience of going to Alcatraz has always been a very high and wonderful experience. It is hard for me to even explain. Of course I know it was a prison. On the tour of Alcatraz I got very upset, especially during the part when you’re taken downstairs to learn about the lesser known incarceration of Elders and also the cells for those people who didn’t want to go to war. So of course I know it is was a prison, yet when I go there I am struck by exuberance and hope about [Indian] people being able to make statements about their conditions.

I was a witness to that and wanted to be a conduit for those statements. There were no American Indian journalists, we were nearly all white. There was one Indian photographer, John Whitefox, who is now dead. But he lost his film. So we really saw it as our job, politically, as underground photographers and writers to cover what was part of the revolution and social upheaval.

Ilka Hartmann

Eldy Bratt, Alcatraz Island, May 1970. Photo: © 2009 Ilka Hartmann

Ilka Hartmann

Two Indian children play on abandoned Department of Justice equipment. Alcatraz Island, 1970. Photo: © 2009 Ilka Hartmann

San Francisco Bay has a strange history with islands, incarceration and subjugation. San Quentin was the focus of the Black Panther resistance – it is just ten miles north of the city. Angel Island was an immigrations station for Asians – it is known as the “Ellis Island of the West” and some Chinese migrants were kept there for years. And, then there’s Alcatraz. How do you reconcile all this?

It’s totally horrible to me. I come form Germany. Before I came I’d heard about Sing Sing on the river on the East coast. It was a horrible thought to me that they could put people in such prisons.

I drive past San Quentin most days, I have actually been inside and taken photographs. And of Angel Island – it is almost sarcastic to imprison people like that; it’s such a contradiction to the beauty of the Bay. It’s the hubris of human beings to do that to one another.

Of course there are people who should be in prison, like at San Quentin, but certainly the Chinese should not have been treated like that on Angel Island. The Indians and the anti-war demonstrators should absolutely not have been treated like that on Alcatraz. Actually the authorities were respectful to the antiwar demonstrators than they were to the Indians, but still both are an aberration of human nature to treat others like that. I don’t know what to do with murderers but I do know I am against the death penalty.

Ilka Hartmann

An Indian man arrives at Pier 40 on the mainland following the removal in June 1971. Indians of All Tribes operated a receiving facility on Pier 40, where donated materials were stored and where Indian people could wait for boats to transport them to Alcatraz Island. Photo: © 2009 Ilka Hartmann

"We will not give up". Indian occupiers moments after the removal from Alcatraz Island on June 11, 1971. Oohosis, a Cree from Canada (Left) and Peggy Lee Ellenwood, a Sioux from Wolf Point, Montana (Right). Photo Ilka Hartmann

"We will not give up". Indian occupiers moments after the removal from Alcatraz Island on June 11, 1971. Oohosis, a Cree from Canada (Left) and Peggy Lee Ellenwood, a Sioux from Wolf Point, Montana (Right). Photo © 2009 Ilka Hartmann

How do you see the situation for Native Americans today?

When I started there was said to be one million American Indians and now statistics say there are one and a half million. This is down to two things: first, the numbers have increased, but secondly more people identify as Native Americans where they had tried to hide it before due to racism and prejudice.

I went on one trip with a Native American Family for six weeks across the southwest and I kept asking if the Indians were going to survive and there was some doubt, but now people really think the culture is growing and there has been a notable revival. There advances being made dealing with treatments for alcoholism and returning to free practices of traditional worship. I know that the Omaha are talking of a Renaissance of the Omaha culture. My friend and historian, Dennis Hastings, who was also an occupier of Alcatraz, said to me ten years ago “It could still go either way. Half the Native peoples are debilitated with alcoholism and the other half are vibrant and healthy.”

Great afflictions still exist but there are many more Indians who are able to function in the Western aspects of society and traditional ways of life. When I entered the movement there was only one [Native American] PhD; now there are over a hundred. There is hope now.

What we felt came out of Alcatraz was the influence that it had on Nixon. Because he was a proponent of the war I always used to think of him in only negative ways but that is a learning experience too. It is a shock that someone responsible for the deaths of so many people in the world, of so many Vietnamese, could do something good. He signed the American Indian Religious Freedoms Act (1978). Edward Kennedy also worked a lot on these laws.

We believe the returns of lands such as Blue Lake/Taos Pueblos in New Mexico and lands in Washington followed on from the occupation of Alcatraz. There is a famous picture of Nixon with a group of Paiute American Indians. I believe a former high school sports coach of Nixon’s from San Clememnte was Native American and so we think this teacher influenced him.

As a result of Alcatraz, as well as the land takeovers, the consciousness has been raised among non-Indians and this was very important. People in the Bay Area were very supportive of the occupation, until the point where people were not responsible; it got messy the security got too strong and there were drugs and alcohol. Bad things did happen but in the beginning all that was important to expose to the world was written about, particularly by Tim Findley and all the writers working to get this into the underground press.

Until about 15 years when Troy R. Johnson and Adam Fortunate Eagle wrote and researched their books we didn’t understand everything that had happened – we just knew it was exhilarating. We now have the information of policy changes and the knowledge of people who went back to the reservations; leaders such as Wilma Mankiller who was the principle chief of the Cherokee for a long time. Dennis Hastings was the historian of the Omaha people and brought back the sacred star from Harvard University.

Many people have done things to allow a return to the Native culture and it is so strong now – both the urban and reservation culture. American Indians are making films about urban America – part of modern America but also within their Indian backgrounds. Things have changed enormously.

The benevolence of Richard Nixon is not something I’ve heard about before!

Yes, You can read more about it in our book.

What will you be doing for the 40th anniversary?

I’l be going to UC Berkeley. I’ve been working on an event with a young Native American man who is part of the Native American Studies Program which was established in 1970 as a result of the Third World Strikes. I walked and demonstrated at that time many times. I’m very happy to be returning. LaNada Boyer Means who was one of the leaders of the occupation will be present. We’ll be thinking of Richard Aoki, who was a prominent Asian American in the Black Panther movement, who died just a few months ago.

When these people would lead demonstrations, I would photograph it and then I’d rush to the lab, work through the night to get them printed the next day in the Daily Cal and then have to teach my classes and then take my seminars and it would go on like that for weeks.

So, a young man Richie Richards has organized a 40th Anniversary celebration at Berkeley. It includes events that will run all week, films, speakers, I’ll be showing my slides and then on Saturday we’re going to Alcatraz for a sunrise ceremony. Adam Fortunate Eagle, who wrote the Alcatraz Proclamation, will lead the ceremony on the Island.

In addition at San Francisco State where the 1969 student protests originated their will be a mural unveiled to mark the occasion. There have already been recognition ceremonies for ‘veterans’ of the occupation this week in Berkeley and starting tonight there are events for Native American High School students from all over the area in Berkeley also. Interest has really rekindled recently. The text books have really changed so much and I think that is excellent for younger generations.

And many more to come …

Thanks so much Ilka.

Thank you, Pete.


For this interview I used Ilka’s portrait shots from the occupation. There are many more photographs to feast on here and here.

Overcoming exhaustion and disillusionment, young Alcatraz Occupier Atha Rider Whitemankiller (Cherokee) stands tall before the press at the Senator Hotel. His eloquent words about the purpose of the occupation - to publicize his people's plight and establish a land base for the Indians of the Bay Area - were the most quoted of the day. San Francisco, California. June 11th 1971. Photo Ilka Hartmann

© Rana Javadi

© Rana Javadi. (This image is not in the show, but the artist is.)

Photoquai‘s mission : to highlight and make known, artists whose work is previously unexhibited or little known in Europe, to foster exchanges and the exchanging of views on the world.

The 2009 Photoquai biennial is directed by Anahita Ghabaian Etehadieh, an Iranian gallerist and founder of the Silk Road Gallery, Tehran – the only space in Iran dedicated to exhibiting photography.

Photoquai shows the work of 50 contemporary photographers from around the world, unknown or little known photographic talents in European terms, who come from Latin America, North America, Asia, Oceania, Africa and the Near and Middle East.

© Nomusa Makhubu

© Nomusa Makhubu

Presumably, Photoquai will propel debates about diversity and representation. I desperately wanted to write something important about Photoquai.

It is a photo-festival hell-bent on avoiding the usual names and well-worn paths of sight and (re)appreciation. But …

As part of my due diligence (sat on my arse, browsing the web, dipping into sources) I was stopped in my tracks by Colin Pantall’s “rant”:

Even 10 years ago, if you wanted to see somebody’s work, you had to buy the book or look in a magazine – which made buying a book or looking in a magazine that much more exciting and attractive. Now you just link to it and see it twittered and facebooked and blogged in a random stream of pictures that you have neither the time nor the will to linger on or contemplate. You can pretend viewing pictures like this is worthwhile in some way, but it’s not and it doesn’t allow for intelligent comment or insight to appear.

The idle, rapid-fire online viewing of photography has it’s knock on effects to writing about photography. Both are debased. I am as guilty as the next person.

So why should you listen to my opinion when I’ve not left my desk in the hour since I became aware of PhotoQuai? Read the following reviews from people who actually went and stood in front of the prints.

Jon Levy of Foto8 gives a pretty anemic description of his preview tour, but is ultimately thankful that new events are still blossoming despite the “undoubtedly harsh” climate for photojournalism.

Diane Smyth at 1854, the BJP blog, first has an overview of Photoquai. Smyth then provides a description of an “unusual exhibition in the Pavillon des Sessions at the Louvre. Portrait croises pairs a selection of 40 images from the Musee du Quai Branly’s extensive archive with indigenous sculptures and artworks from around the world.” Personally, the curatorial premise of this exhibit seems problematic – mainly because the pairings would seem to devalue the original meanings and conditions of production, if not strip them completely.

Marc Feustel of eyecurious loved the ambition but was “pretty disappointed” by the quality throughout. He felt guilty for criticising a small, brave, new-festival-on-the-block but couldn’t forgive the “photographers who should be tried for Photoshop crimes against photography.”

If you look through Jim Casper’s LensCulture gallery, you’ll sympathise with Feustel’s point.

© Daniela Edburg

© Daniela Edburg

© Nadiah Bamadhaj

© Nadiah Bamadhaj


Iranian photography gets special attention on the 30 year anniversary of the revolution, and the approximate 20 year anniversary of the end of the Iran/Iraq war.

Afghanistan photography inevitably remains within the implications of its ban during Taliban rule.

Only a few well-known names are knocking about, noticeably Abbas Kowsari.

Pablo Hare is the darling so far.

© Pablo Hare

© Pablo Hare

A TB patient at Tomsk Regional Clinical Tuberculosis Hospital, Building #3. Photograph and caption © James Nachtwey/VII.

A TB patient at Tomsk Regional Clinical Tuberculosis Hospital, Building #3. Photograph and caption © James Nachtwey/VII.

“Tuberculosis is a disease of poverty and stress“.

Merrill Goozner, The Center for Science in the Public Interest.

“Sixty percent of all new cases of tuberculosis have resulted from the rapid growth of the post-Communist prison archipelago”.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Aug. 26th, 2008

Tuberculosis (TB) was under relative control in the former USSR. Soviets had lifestyles, nourishment and conditions of living that kept disease at bay. When communism fell, so did a civil order in many areas. The phalanx of activity that filled the vacuum involved new systems, new relationships, new businesses and new criminal opportunities.

The prisons filled in a society that needed to organize itself before it could organize it’s transgressors. The prison population swelled to 1.1 million (it is now down to little over 700,000). Post-communist prisons held malnourished, crowded populations with weak immune systems; they have been described as ‘Tuberculosis incubators‘.

Correctional Treatment Unit #1, a TB prison colony in Tomsk, Siberia. TB patient/prisoner gets a chest x-ray. Treatment is supervised by Partners in Health in partnership with the government TB program. James Nachtwey/VII

Correctional Treatment Unit #1, a TB prison colony in Tomsk, Siberia. TB patient/prisoner gets a chest x-ray. Treatment is supervised by Partners in Health in partnership with the government TB program. James Nachtwey/VII

TB is best treated with various labour intensive methods known under the umbrella-term Directly Observed Therapys (DOTs). Due to TB’s many different strains – each with different drug resistancies – case by case treatments differ according to patient reactions to drugs. At the least, a patient must be observed and his/her drug regime modified over a 6 month period. For Multi-Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB) the treatment can take as long as two years. And, MDR-TB & XDR-TB are increasingly common among prison and civilian populations of Tomsk and other Siberian urban centers. Unfortunately, closely monitored drug regimes are improbable in over-stretched and poorly funded state systems.

It wasn’t always so dire. The former Soviet provided a regular supply of drugs to abate disease amongst its prison population, but those supplies were interrupted in the fall of Communism – sporadic and incomplete treatments gave rise to multiple resistant strains of tuberculosis. To compound this the side effects of drugs were enough to discourage patients, and rarely, if ever, did courses of treatment go with a prisoner into his community following release.

TB patients smoke cigarettes in the smoking room of Tomsk Regional Clinical Tuberculosis Hospital, Building #1. James Nachtwey/VII

TB patients smoke cigarettes in the smoking room of Tomsk Regional Clinical Tuberculosis Hospital, Building #1. James Nachtwey/VII

James Nachtwey‘s mega-promoted TED prize crusade addresses the spread of Extremely Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (XDR-TB), its mutant forms and human tolls. This excellent Guardian article notes Nachtwey has photographed the epidemic worldwide, from Siberian prisons to Cambodian clinics.

A prisoner who was convicted of murder was moved from prison to the TB ward of Battambang Provincial Hospital, Battambang, Cambodia when he was diagnosed with TB. He is coinfected with AIDS. James Nachtwey

A prisoner who was convicted of murder was moved from prison to the TB ward of Battambang Provincial Hospital, Battambang, Cambodia when he was diagnosed with TB. He is coinfected with AIDS. James Nachtwey

Nachtwey stands with Sebastião Salgado in the “super-photographer” stakes. They both make the ugly beautiful.

Both Nachtwey and Salgado have inspired others to action and both believe firmly in the power of photography to change existences … even in a time when such sentiment is derided as old-fashioned, false idealism.

But, despite the odds, Nachtwey has succeeded in forcing his work into the conscience of millions. For some his work is an inspiration for social justice; but for others his work is a sub-conscious default to guilt, despondency and powerlessness to help others less fortunate.

James Nachtwey puts human faces to global suffering. And we are outraged. Or we feel we should be outraged.

I think Nachtwey wants us to believe in ourselves as agents of change. Nachtwey deliberately chose Tuberculosis – because while the situation is critical, it is not terminal and TB is theoretically entirely curable. Beating TB on a global scale is dependent on the behaviours of individuals and their communities.

Correctional Treatment Unit #1, a TB prison colony in Tomsk, Siberia. A prisoner proves to a nurse that he has swallowed his daily oral TB medication. The prisoners receive treatment through metal bars in order to give security to the nurses. Treatment is supervised by Partners in Health in partnership with the government TB program.

Correctional Treatment Unit #1, a TB prison colony in Tomsk, Siberia. A prisoner proves to a nurse that he has swallowed his daily oral TB medication. The prisoners receive treatment through metal bars in order to give security to the nurses. Treatment is supervised by Partners in Health in partnership with the government TB program. © James Nachtwey/VII.

Nachtwey’s work extended beyond the prison walls in Tomsk and went into the public clinics (some images included here show those facilities); TB is no respecter of human walls or demarcations. Regional, economic poverty will spike rates of TB.

A TB patient has excess fluid drained from his chest a Tomsk Regional Clinical Tuberculosis Hospital, Building #1. James Nachtwey/VII

The worst thing we could do here would be to think that TB is a disease of other nations and other peoples. In Pathologies of Power (2004), Paul Farmer wrote about the New York prison system’s huge Tuberculosis epidemic of the mid-nineties, “By some estimate, it cost $1 billion to bring under control”. The strains that arose in the NYDoC have been directly related to the resistant strains of the former Soviet Union. Tuberculosis is latent within one third of the world’s population. Tuberculosis needs only the conditions for its growth.

Paul Farmer, of Mountains Beyond Mountains fame has taken the lead on combating TB, as well as other infectious diseases, amongst the world’s poorest populations. He worked with Partners in Health partly funded by a Soros Grant to “develop demonstration tuberculosis control projects which could become a model for replication throughout Russia.”

A nurse prepares a daily injection for TB patients at Tomsk Regional Clinical Tuberculosis Hospital, Building #3. James Nachtwey/VII

A nurse prepares a daily injection for TB patients at Tomsk Regional Clinical Tuberculosis Hospital, Building #3. James Nachtwey/VII

Prison Photography blog has focused twice previously on photographers’ responses to the USSR and its aftermath – the Gulag and the new prisons that arose. While Anna Shteynshleyger and Yana Payusova are working with very different issues, regions and populations they – along with Nachtwey’s work – remind us of the severe problems facing parts of modern Russian society. Unfortunately, and certainly in the case of Tuberculosis, these problems exist in other nations also. Nachtwey focused on TB because it was not – despite being a global problem – on the radar of most people. That sounds like something I’d say about prisons and prisoners’ rights.

Correctional Treatment Unit #1, a TB prison colony in Tomsk, Siberia. A patient/prisoner receives a daily medical injection. The prisoners receive treatment through metal bars in order to give security to the nurses. Treatment is supervised by Partners in Health in partnership with the government TB program. James Nachtwey/VII

For more information on XDR-TB read the Action – Advocacy to Stop TB Internationally website, and the Center for Disease Control & Prevention website. For the most accessible and recent article, read Merrill Goozner’s 2008 Scientific American article about Russian Tuberculosis strains which also includes a audio segment with a clear explanation of the situation.

James Nachtwey, A TB patient/prisoner receives his daily oral medication at Correctional Treatment Unit #1, a TB prison colony in Tomsk, Siberia.

A TB patient/prisoner receives his daily oral medication at Correctional Treatment Unit #1, a TB prison colony in Tomsk, Siberia. © James Nachtwey/VII.

James Nachtwey built his reputation as a combat photographer.

He was always reluctant to be the focus of media attention but after 5 Capa Gold Medals for War Photography he couldn’t escape the curiosity of Christian Frei who made the extraordinary film War Photographer. Nachtwey comes across as an articulate, self-isolated journalist-force devoted to his craft and courteously distant to others; here is a clip.

Nachtwey has done interviews here, here and here. Read an interview about his 9/11 pictures, and associated videos on Digital Journalist. The images were published in TIME.

He worked in Rwanda for his book Inferno.

View his TED Prize acceptance speech and the consequent October 2008 launch of his XDR-TB project and Flickr pool.


In 2007, Jürgen Chill‘s Zellen series won him the European Architectural Photography Prize in the “Favorite Places” category. Awarded every two years since 1995, the international prize is now organized by the nonprofit architekturbild.eV (since 2005). The 2007 jury – chaired by Hans Eberhard Hess, chief editor of Photo International magazine – was impressed by Chill’s strict central overhead perspective and chose four images.

Today, the 2009 prize winners are announced, so it seems like a good time to recall Chill’s intriguing images.

Jürgen Chill’s Zellen photographs are a unique perspective upon prison space. Of all the positions in the cell, this floating light-fixture-eye-view should be the least claustrophobic, and yet, the central (physically impossible) high vantage point is dizzying. How does the camera (let alone cameraman) take up such a position? From here, what is there left to do but fall?

Has Chill has pioneered a new photographic typology? I was fascinated by the order of each work; the order of each cell. I must presume this order is the inmates doing and not the photographers. Chill’s work is labour intensive. The reason he nor the camera falls is because each image is a stitch of over one hundred photographs, captured by a digital SLR mounted on a boom, pressed – facing downward – against the ceiling surface.




Chill is aware that entering his work in the category ‘Favourite Places’ may seem careless or even cynical, especially as the inmates are not pictured. On the other hand, as he notes on his website, “the barren rooms of the inmates are highly individualized and at least temporary qualify as de facto ‘Favorite Places’.” In 2006 he stated:

A person’s favourite place is a place which can be chosen at will. The person’s freedom is presupposed. Freedom, however, is not granted to all. Those that do not have it must adjust to whatever opportunities exist and strive to create their own place. A cell is perhaps the smallest possible space for habitation that a person can have. Personal and functional items are all accommodated in the tightest space. The spaces are represented as they are found. The Spaces are represented as they are found. The proportions of the photographs mach those of the rooms. All details in the rooms are shown orthogonally from above, nothing has been altered.


I contacted Jürgen via email to ask about the practicalities of making Zellen, and to secure his comments on the series concept.

Jürgen, please introduce your work.
My photographs are most like a map of the prison cells; like a Google Earth view of a landscape.  I try to communicate information about the individuals that have to live in perhaps the smallest possible space for habitation that a person can have – without showing this person himself. Personal and functional items are all accommodated in the tightest space.

I’m interested in how a person arranges personal and functional items in their small cell. And what kind of person can it be [based upon the visible evidence]? Is it possible to get a “picture” of a person by having a view of his private space? It’s a view and perspective that you normally would never get of these cells. So it is not really “real”, more a scenery set or something similar.




Where are the cells?
The are all in Germany in big cities in the area of Nordrhein Westfalen.

Are the photographs made in the same institution?
I made 16 photographs in 6 different prisons in the cities of Bochum, Hagen, Duisburg, Gelsenkirchen, Essen and Geldern

Where were the prisoners when you took the photographs?
I had a short conversation with the prisoners in their cells; explained my project, my concept and my motivation. Some of them were really interested in my work and my kind of photography. The prisoners allowed me to spend about 45 minutes alone in their cells, while they are waited outside, in the alleyway, guarded by one or two persons from the prison.

After my work, for their permission to photograph and publish their private things and space, I gave them a small gift; a packet of coffee or cigarettes. Later I sent them all the photograph of their rooms. Some of them asked for it to have as a kind of souvenir for when they are released from prison.

How long did set up take and what equipment did you use?
Just to photograph takes about 30 minutes. With the test shoots and everything it takes about 75 minutes in one cell. The main work, the montage to one photo takes about one week. So it took a long time to make the photo series. You can see how the images were made in the youtube clip of this German television show from October, 2007.

Does the collection and order of all worldly possessions in a single space fascinate you?
It’s the combination of personal and functional items in a small space. First, the cell must contain all the functions of a house in one room: bedroom, toilet, living-room, store-room and sometimes a kitchen. Then the prisoner combines it with his personal possessions and create his private space in about 8 square metres. How does a person arrange such a small space with personal items so that it [also] keeps its basic functions ? And that arrangement exists for years. So my photographs try to draw a picture of an individual person.


Americans, in particular, are starting to realise that they must use/waste less petrol, possessions, energy, space and give up personal largess for the benefit of community. Does the modesty of the prison cell appeal to you? Do future modes of living relate to the cell?

For me, as the artist and maker of these photographs, my intention is not to call out [to people] to give up personal largess for the benefit of community or for other kinds of social and political attitudes or activities. I just want to show the state of things in the visual of photography and try to show these things in an unusual perspective or context. Just to ask questions about it and not to give answers. That’s the viewers job.

Would you put your images into a history of visual culture that represents humans under duress and finding humanity in the smallest places/between the cracks? Or, is the Zellen series a totally modern piece, completely divided from historical context?

About historical context: I think every art work (the good ones) can not be divided from cultural and historical contexts. The Zellen series, and the new photographic series of whorehouse rooms, which I’m now working on, tells us about situations and the state of things now.

But the contemporary associations of now ( the “Zeitgeist” ) result from the past. The series Zellen was shown in a large exposition about prisons, CUSTODY/SPACES OF SURVEILLANCE in the Summer of 2008 in Frankfurt, Germany. The photographs were shown there in the historical context of humanity under surveillance; within imprisonment and [in the context of] prison architectures.



Thanks to Jürgen for his kind help and time in piecing this article together.

All Images ©  Jürgen Chill.

London Metropolitan Police Anti-Photography Propaganda Campaign Poster

London Metropolitan Police Anti-Photography Propaganda Campaign Poster

When I began writing this blog, it was meant as a vehicle to display the documentary work of photographers working in sites of incarceration and to generally expound the stories touched upon. It was also meant to deconstruct some of the persistent myths surrounding prisons and prison populations and how visual culture has played its part in weaving some of those myths.

Not once did I envisage the current situation whereby the act of photography could bring about the threat of detention and imprisonment. Such impingement on basic rights of expression has been known in some of the dictatorial and despotic regimes of modern history … but not so much in the West, right? The times they are achangin’.

Photo: Liam Oliver Newton Craik-Horan.

Photo: Liam Oliver Newton Craik-Horan.

When my brother visited from the UK last month he couldn’t stress enough how much of a police state it has become. We reasoned that the fingerprints taken by US homeland security are know also the possession of the UK government. It used to be the case that fingerprints were only taken and kept on file in the UK if you had been convicted for a crime. How things change.

A few months ago I signed up as a member of ACLU, the decisive moment was when the ACLU representative said to me, “You don’t want the US turning out like Britain with all those cameras and surveillance do you?”

Britain really is a country that has got itself on edge; it’s culture promoting men and women in all guises of security to exert illegitimate power and enforce ludicrous policy. Unfortunately, this robotic application of rules has infected even our art galleries, as the venerable John Berger discovered.

This past months have seen a slew of stories coming out of Britain regarding the rights of photographers in public spaces. All these are in response to a slew of legislation to slowly whittle down the rights of photographers; the rights of UK citizens.

On 16th February, the Counter Terrorism act came into effect making it illegal to photograph a police officer or “elicit information” about them. The British Journal of Photography has the details.

After the disgust at such brazen restriction of rights, the response by the photographic community in London was to go to Scotland Yard, headquarters of the Metropolitan police, and in an act of mass civil disobedience take lots of photographs of lots of officers.

The Guardian UK has been the mainstream print media that has really pursued this topic, reminding us all of what we have just lost. They broke the story that Kent police monitored members of the press during an environment protest, for which the Kent constabulary have apologized.

The Press Gazette explained this tactic and the associated tension between police and photographers.

David Hoffman, a photographer with 32 years’ experience, said he now carries shinpads in his bag, claiming he had been kicked by police officers at protests.

“The police today [NUJ Protest] have been beautiful – but that isn’t always the case,” he said. “Recent protests have been very bad. The worst was October last year, at the Climate Rush demo. One copper spent his time kicking my leg. Stood there with his steel toe caps kicking away – and me, a silver-haired man. I’ve still got chunks missing from my legs five months on. They want you to think: I won’t cover it next time. They have been using FIT [Forward Intelligence Teams, who use cameras], they have been using intimidation.”

Hoffman added, “It’s important the police know they’re being watched and observed. If you don’t see what’s going on, your society’s less democratic.”

It is almost like the lines have been drawn so indelibly, people are having to pick a side. It is sad to see but the police fall in line with the government and the majority sympathise with the press. This has led to a conflation of stories involving the G20 protests, police misconduct, and the death of (and vigil for) Ian Tomlinson. Judging by the Guardian’s recent coverage, you’d be forgiven for thinking that London was on the edge of civic breakdown.

I think the media and the Guardian in particular are taking a principled stance here and just reminding the Met at every opportunity that they are watched and the press will not be cowed. I think most of us realise that with millions of people in possession of recording equipment it is unenforceable to stop people from documenting the streets.

Ian Tomlinson’s death received a lot of coverage and rightly so, but I shall wait for the inquiry ruling before making a call, despite the early damning evidence. We, however, in the business of images know that they can never tell the full story. This is now an investigation of excessive force by the police and distinct from the main issue of photographers/civil rights.

Yesterday, the Guardian published this footage of the police threatening photographers with arrest if they did not move. Again, later the force apologized. But what is interesting here is the Guardian‘s decision to line up video footage of various scenes of confrontation from different days in the right hand nav bar. It is a dossier of police activity and unlike anything I have seen in mainstream media.

Photo: Roger Lancefield. The protesters stickers read "I am not a Terrorist, I am a Photographer".

Photo: Roger Lancefield. The protesters stickers read "I am not a Terrorist, I am a Photographer".

From the sublime to the ridiculous, the Guardian showed that front-line press aren’t the only ones under scrutiny. Metropolitan police deleted a tourist’s photographs this week to “prevent terrorism”. Klaus Matzka, the tourist involved summed his experience up as such:

“I’ve never had these experiences anywhere, never in the world, not even in Communist countries.”

So, at best you are harassed for your photographic activity and at worst, if thought to hold sinister motives, arrested and face a 10 year sentence.

Before all this gets to any court, however, the clashes are felt on the street, on the shins and in the constantly diminished rights to freedom of expression. Where citizen photographers may feel powerless, it seems the press – and the Guardian in particular – are just getting powered up.


Thanks to all the Flickr users credited above for their images, but more importantly their acts of documentation in the face of legislation to prevent such freedoms. I hope we all stay out of prison.

© 2009 Ged Murray

© 2009 Ged Murray

To append my last post about iconic photographs of rooftop inmates during the Strangeways riot of 1990 is a nod to the work of Ged Murray. Previous lamentations at the lack of Strangeways photography were premature on my part … I just had to keep digging.

© 2009 Ged Murray

© 2009 Ged Murray

These are my choice shots from a series of 20 Strangeways images on Ged Murray’s website. The image below of the two inmates in discussion is iconic (according to my brother). The silhouetted tower is instantly recognisable.

© 2009 Ged Murray

© 2009 Ged Murray

© 2009 Ged Murray

© 2009 Ged Murray

© 2009 Ged Murray

© 2009 Ged Murray

© 2009 Ged Murray

© 2009 Ged Murray

© 2009 Ged Murray

© 2009 Ged Murray

This last image of an inmate with signs took a large portion of my time. I am still thinking it over. Unerringly, I like the image. The shot bypasses the potency of icon and dilutes our consumption of events; returning our appreciation to more modest levels, focusing on the individual lives involved during a brief but pivotal moment in the history of British governmental prison policy.

© 2009 Ged Murray

© 2009 Ged Murray


Thanks to Ged Murray for his permission to publish the images.

Alabama Death House Prison, 2004. Silver print photograph. Stephen Tourlentes

Alabama Death House Prison, Grady, AL, 2004. Silver print photograph. © 2009 Stephen Tourlentes

Stephen Tourlentes photographs prisons only at night for it is then they change the horizon. Social division and ignorance contributed to America’s rapid prison growth. Tourlentes’ lurking architectures are embodiments of our shared fears. In the world Tourlentes proposes, light haunts; it is metaphor for our psycho-social fears and denial. Prisons are our bogeyman.

These prisons encroach upon our otherwise “safe” environments. Buzzing with the constant feedback of our carceral system, these photographs are the glower of a collective and captive menace. Hard to ignore, do we hide from the beacon-like reminders of our social failures, or can we use Tourlentes’ images as guiding light to better conscience?

Designed as closed systems, prisons illuminate the night and the world that built them purposefully outside of its boundaries. “It’s a bit like sonic feedback … maybe it’s the feedback of exile,” says Tourlentes.

Stephen Tourlentes has been photographing prisons since 1996. His many series – and portfolio as a whole – has received plaudits and secured funding from organisations including the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Massachusetts Cultural Council and Artadia.

Stephen was kind enough to take the time to answer Prison Photography‘s questions submitted via email.

Penn State Death House Prison, Bellefonte, PA, 2003, Stephen Tourlentes

Penn State Death House Prison, Bellefonte, PA, 2003. © 2009 Stephen Tourlentes

Carson City, Nevada, Death House, 2002. Gelatin silver print. Stephen Tourlentes

Carson City, Nevada, Death House, 2002. Gelatin silver print. © 2009 Stephen Tourlentes

Blythe Prison, California. Stephen Tourlentes

Blythe Prison, California. © 2009 Stephen Tourlentes

Pete Brook. You have traveled to many states? How many prisons have you photographed in total?

Stephen Tourlentes. I’ve photographed in 46 states. Quite the trip considering many of the places I photograph are located on dead-end roads. My best guess is I’ve photographed close to 100 prisons so far.

PB. How do you choose the prisons to photograph?

ST. Well I sort of visually stumbled onto photographing prisons when they built one in the town I grew up in Illinois. It took me awhile to recognize this as a path to explore. I noticed that the new prison visually changed the horizon at night. I began to notice them more and more when I traveled and my curiosity got the best of me.

There is lots of planning that goes into it but I rely on my instinct ultimately. The Internet has been extremely helpful. There are three main paths to follow 1. State departments of corrections 2. The Federal Bureau of Prisons and 3. Private prisons.  Usually I look for the density of institutions from these sources and search for the cheapest plane ticket that would land me near them.

Structurally the newer prisons are very similar so it’s the landscape they inhabit that becomes important in differentiating them from each other. Photographing them at night has made illumination important.  Usually medium and maximum-security prisons have the most perimeter lighting.  An interesting sidebar to that is male institutions often tend to have more lighting than female institutions even if the security level is the same.

Holliday Unit, Huntsville, Texas, 2001. Gelatin silver print. Stephen Tourlentes

Holliday Unit, Huntsville, Texas, 2001. Gelatin silver print. © 2009 Stephen Tourlentes

Springtown State Prison, Oklahoma, 2003. Archival pigment print. Stephen Tourlentes

Springtown State Prison, Oklahoma, 2003. Archival pigment print. © 2009 Stephen Tourlentes

Death House Prison, Rawlins, Wyoming, 2000. Archival pigment print. Stephen Tourlentes

Death House Prison, Rawlins, Wyoming, 2000. Archival pigment print. © 2009 Stephen Tourlentes

Arkansas Death House, Prison, Grady, AK, 2007. Stephen Tourlentes

Arkansas Death House, Prison, Grady, AK, 2007. © 2009 Stephen Tourlentes

PB. Are there any notorious prisons that you want to photograph or avoid precisely because of their name?

ST. No I’m equally curious and surprised by each one I visit. There are certain ones that I would like to re-visit to try another angle or see during a different time of year. I usually go to each place with some sort of expectation that is completely wrong and requires me to really be able to shift gears on the fly.

PB. You have described the Prison as an “Important icon” and as a “General failure of our society”. Can you expand on those ideas?

ST. Well the sheer number of prisons built in this country over the last 25 years has put us in a league of our own regarding the number of people incarcerated. We have chosen to lock up people at the expense of providing services to children and schools that might have helped to prevent such a spike in prison population.

The failure is being a reactive rather than a proactive society. I feel that the prison system has become a social engineering plan that in part deals with our lack of interest in developing more humanistic support systems for society.

PB. It seems that America’s prison industrial complex is an elephant in the room. Do you agree with this point of view? Are the American public (and, dare I say it, taxpayers) in a state of denial?

ST. I don’t know if it’s denial or fear.  It seems that it is easier to build a prison in most states than it is a new elementary school. Horrific crimes garner headlines and seem to monopolize attention away from other types of social services and infrastructure that might help to reduce the size of the criminal justice system. This appetite for punishment as justice often serves a political purpose rather than finding a preventative or rehabilitative response to societies ills.

State Prison, Dannemora, NY, 2004. Stephen Tourlentes

State Prison, Dannemora, NY, 2004. © 2009 Stephen Tourlentes

Prison, Castaic, CA, 2007. Stephen Tourlentes

Prison, Castaic, CA, 2007. © 2009 Stephen Tourlentes

Federal Prison, Atwater, CA, 2007. Stephen Tourlentes

Federal Prison, Atwater, CA, 2007. © 2009 Stephen Tourlentes

Utah State Death House Complex, Draper, UT, 2002. Stephen Tourlentes

Utah State Death House Complex, Draper, UT, 2002. © 2009 Stephen Tourlentes

PB. How do you think artistic ventures such as yours compare with political will and legal policy as means to bring the importance of an issue, such as prison expansion, into the public sphere?

ST. I think artists have always participated in bringing issues to the surface through their work. It’s a way of bearing witness to something that collectively is difficult to follow. Sometimes an artist’s interpretation touches a different nerve and if lucky the work reverberates longer than the typical news cycle.

PB. In your attempt with this work to “connect the outside world with these institutions”, what parameters define that attempt a success?

ST. I’m not sure it ever is… I guess that’s part of what drives me to respond to these places. These prisons are meant to be closed systems; so my visual intrigue comes when the landscape is illuminated back by a system (a prison) that was built by the world outside its boundaries. It’s a bit like sonic feedback… maybe it’s the feedback of exile.

PB. Are you familiar with Sandow Birk’s paintings and series, Prisonation? In terms of obscuring the subject and luring the viewer in, do you think you operate similar devices in different media?

ST. Yes I think they are related. I like his paintings quite a lot.  The first time I saw them I imagined that we could have been out there at the same time and crossed paths.

PB. Many of your prints are have the moniker “Death House” in them, Explain this.

ST. I find it difficult to comprehend that in a modern civilized society that state sanctioned executions are still used by the criminal justice system. The Death House series became a subset of the overall project as I learned more about the American prison system. There are 38 states that have capital punishment laws on the books. Usually each of these 38 states has one prison where these sentences are carried out. I became interested in the idea that the law of the land differed depending on a set of geographical boundaries.

Federal Prison, Victorville, CA, 2007. Stephen Tourlentes

Federal Prison, Victorville, CA, 2007. © 2009 Stephen Tourlentes

Prison Complex, Florence, AZ, 2004. Stephen Tourlentes

Prison Complex, Florence, AZ, 2004. © 2009 Stephen Tourlentes

Lancaster State Prison, Lancaster, CA, 2007. Stephen Tourlentes

Lancaster State Prison, Lancaster, CA, 2007. © 2009 Stephen Tourlentes

PB. Have you identified different reactions from different prison authorities, in different states, to your work?

ST. The guards tend not to appreciate when I am making the images unannounced. Sometimes I’m on prison property but often I’m on adjacent land that makes for interesting interactions with the people that live around these institutions.  I’ve had my share of difficult moments and it makes sense why. The warden at Angola prison in Louisiana was by far the most hospitable which surprised me since I arrived unannounced.

PB. What percentage of prisons do you seek permission from before setting up your equipment?

ST. I usually only do it as a last resort.  I’ve found that the administrative side of navigating the various prison and state officials was too time consuming and difficult. They like to have lots of information and exact schedules that usually don’t sync with the inherent difficulty of making an interesting photograph.  I make my life harder by photographing in the middle of the night.  The third shift tends to be a little less PR friendly.

PB. What would you expect the reaction to be to your work in the ‘prison-towns’ of Northern California, West Texan plains or Mississippi delta? Town’s that have come to rely on the prison for their local economy?

ST. You know it’s interesting because a community that is willing to support a prison is not looking for style points, they want jobs. Often I’m struck by how people accept this institution as neighbors.

I stumbled upon a private prison while traveling in Mississippi in 2007. I was in Tutweiler, MS and I asked a local if that was the Parchman prison on the horizon.  He said no that it was the “Hawaiian” prison. All the inmates had been contracted out of the Hawaiian prison system into this private prison recently built in Mississippi. The town and region are very poor so the private prison is an economic lifeline for jobs.

The growth of the prison economy reflects the difficult economic policies in this country that have hit small rural communities particularly hard. These same economic conditions contribute to populating these prisons and creating the demand for new prisons. Unfortunately, many of these communities stake their economic survival on these places.

Kentucky State Death House, Prison, Eddyville, KY, 2003. Stephen Tourlentes

Kentucky State Death House, Prison, Eddyville, KY, 2003. © 2009 Stephen Tourlentes

PB. You said earlier this year (Big, Red & Shiny) that you are nearly finished with Of Lengths and Measures. Is this an aesthetic/artistic or a practical decision?

ST. I’m not sure if I will really ever be done with it.  From a practical side I would like to spend some time getting the entire body of work into a book form. I think by saying that it helps me to think that I am getting near the end.  I do have other things I’m interested in, but the prison photographs feel like my best way to contribute to the conversation to change the way we do things.


Author’s note: Sincerest thanks to Stephen Tourlentes for his assistance and time with this article.


Stephen Tourlentes received his BFA from Knox College and an MFA (1988) from the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, where he is currently a professor of photography. His work is included in the collection at Princeton University, and has been exhibited at the Revolution Gallery, Michigan; Cranbook Art Museum, Michigan; and S.F. Camerawork, among others. Tourlentes has received a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a Polaroid Corporation Grant, and a MacDowell Colony Fellowship.


This interview was designed in order to compliment the information already provided in another excellent online interview with Stephen Tourlentes by Jess T. Dugan at Big, Red & Shiny. (Highly recommended!)


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