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Image: Ron Haviv / VII Photo

UPDATED: 06/27. 4:25am EST

Following the September launch of VII Photo/Think Outside the Cell’s collaboration, Prison Photography will roll out four related interviews with each VII photographer to capture first hand the journalists’ perspective on reentry, on the images and video they made, on the stakes at hand for subjects who are navigating a precarious time following their incarceration and on the relevance of image to public attitude.

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On Saturday afternoon, I listened to Michael Shaw’s lecture about how governments and corporations are increasingly influencing flows of images through strategic releases and staged ops. In a time of shrinking budgets, especially among printed media, we are all aware of how the modified – or sometimes not so modified – press release is quickly reworded and passed off as news. It goes without saying that this is a sad state of affairs. It goes with saying because below I am  presenting an unmodified press release from VII Photo.

I should also add that I have spoken with a few representatives of VII Photo over the past few days and my decision to post this was also shaped by my keen personal interest in their professional pursuits as well as the personalities working away in VII’s Dumbo headquarters.

When I started blogging, I was a Billy-Nobody … and I rarely knew the photographers or organisations I was writing about. As time has passed, however, I am more frequently in the position of writing about the activities of people I know or with whom I may have shared a drink or meal.

Such a growing fraternity may not be unusual for anyone wending her or his way through any field – and this might be a disclaimer of unusual length – but I wanted to say that things feel different now.

I am not invisible anymore.

PRESS RELEASE

VII PHOTO AGENCY ANNOUNCES VISUAL COMMUNICATIONS PARTNERSHIP WITH THINK OUTSIDE THE CELL FOUNDATION

VII Photo Agency today announced a new long-term partnership with the Think Outside the Cell Foundation to produce documentary film and photography features that raise awareness about the experience of formerly incarcerated persons.

Think Outside the Cell is a non-profit organization founded in 2010 that works with the incarcerated, formerly incarcerated and their families to help end the stigma of incarceration. Through personal development workshops, storytelling and other creative approaches that provide building blocks for productive lives, the Foundation helps those affected by the prison system to create their own opportunities.

The first documentary feature project of this partnership will include a short film and photography essays that capture two subjects in New York City as they experience the daily challenges of reintegrating into society after being released from prison. The project will be launched Tuesday, September 18 on the Think Outside the Cell website and screened nationally at conferences, education forums, debates and in policy circles addressing legislation related to mass incarceration. The imagery and film will be syndicated by VII Photo internationally.

Each year, an estimated 700,000 people are released from prison in the United States, including approximately 26,000 in the state of New York. Often, people are branded as felons for life, and the stigma creates societal barriers that make successful reentry unattainable and staying out of prison with limited access to resources unsustainable.

VII photographers Jessica Dimmock, Ashley Gilbertson, Ron Haviv and Ed Kashi are collaborating as a team shadowing the subjects day-to-day as they deal with the challenges of reintegrating into society.

The partnership launches a long-term collaboration between VII Photo and Think Outside the Cell. VII will act as the Foundation’s exclusive visual communications partner with the aim of raising awareness about incarceration’s stigma and the local, state and federal laws that prevent formerly incarcerated persons from accessing the resources necessary to establish a stable and productive life.

“Think Outside the Cell is delighted to work with VII Photo in tackling head-on the stigma of incarceration,” said Sheila Rule, the Foundation’s co-founder. “Countless men and women who’ve been to prison have extraordinary potential, yet this crippling stigma has led to laws and policies that make it legal to deny them the essential components of full citizenship; employment, housing, educational opportunities, public benefits and the right to vote. Our visual partnership with VII Photo will open hearts and minds to the true impact of the long shadow of incarceration.”

Contact:
Kimberly J. Soenen
, Director of Business Development
Tel: 718.858.3130
kimberly@viiphoto.com

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A few things emerging today to which I’d like to doff my cap.

Lenscratch

Aline Smithson at Lenscratch, rumoured to be in Santa Fe (Good Luck, Aline), celebrated all Lori Waselchuk’s documentary work; Waterlines, one project of many projects wrapped up in Louisiana, and Grace Before Dying community portrait of the Prison Hospice at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola).

Lock Down Visit. Lori Waselchuk

Lock Down Visit. Lori Waselchuk

Lori, a member of the New Orleans Photo Alliance, launched her project Grace Before Dying April 3rd at the Louisiana State Prison Museum in conjunction with the Louisiana-Mississippi Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (LMHPCO), the Louisiana State Prison Museum, and helped along with a Distribution Grant from the Documentary Photography Project of the Open Society Institute and Moonshine Studio.

The issues of age and health in prisons – together and in isolation – have been reasonably well covered. But, Waselchuk succeeds where so many others fail (with the exception of Edmund Clark) in really communicating the infirmity and vulnerability of the inmates

Fraction offered a good summary, as does Waselchuk’s Alma Mater. Critical Mass has the best gallery of Grace Before Dying

Bint PhotoBooks on Internet

Bint PhotoBooks on Internet got to grips with Martin RoemersRelics of the Cold War which includes a Valencia orange room within a Stasi Prison. Roemers goes tête-à-tête with the Fuchs brothers in the communist-archaeology-photo genre.

Germany, East Berlin. Visitor-room in former Stasi prison Hohenschoenhausen. Political prisoners were held in this prison. Martin Roemers

Germany, East Berlin. Visitor-room in former Stasi prison Hohenschoenhausen. Political prisoners were held in this prison. Martin Roemers

Unrelated to prisons, I am also a fan of Roemers’ Lourdes Pilgrims series.

Subjectify

Subjectify grapples with the latent appropriation of images since the 2004 release of Abu Ghraib photographs.

much has been written about the ways in which war photography often echoes iconic religious imagery.  but i have been wondering how, in turn, the iconography of the new war and torture photography is also influencing fine art photographers today?

Subjectify offers Jessica Somer‘s work ‘Origin’ from the Bend So Not to Break series as a case in point. I drew some interest along with disbelief and derision when I skirted the issue regarding Ballen and the torture aesthetic.

Origin. Jessica Somers

Origin. Jessica Somers

I believe artists biggest problem is to work away from viewers natural tendency to superimpose meaning so easily. I think Somers is safe. She’s got a style that stands on its own – it doesn’t get drowned out by media noise or green gloves.

AN Other

Yusuf Sayman‘s work on individuals going through Re-entry programs after long term prison sentences presented itself in the Independent‘s bizarre and confused “Britain’s Best Crime Photography” competition.

Starlene from the Free Again: Starlene series. Yusuf Sayman

Starlene from the Free Again: Starlene series. Yusuf Sayman

Starlene Patterson is one of three former prisoners, Sayman has collaborated with after prison release for the Free Again series. Starlene is at college to qualify as a Social worker. “People need help.”

Starlene has written a book, Up Against the Wall. She says, “My book has a message. There’s a lot of young people who need guidance and they my not have that. If my book can help one [of those children] than I’ve achieved.”

Non-prison related I like Sayman’s Henry’s World series.

EMAIL

prisonphotography [at] gmail [dot] com

@BROOKPETE ON TWITTER

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