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texasdeathrow

Richard Wayne Jones was convicted and sentenced to death for the February 1986 kidnapping and murder of Tammy Livingston in Hurst, Texas. Photographed on Aug. 2, 2000, executed Aug. 22, 2000 (AP Photo/Brett Coomer)

Rian Dundon, photo editor at Timeline, has pieced together 20 years of Texas Death-Row Portraits, a photo-gallery depicting some of the men executed by the state of Texas since the early eighties. The images are made by a host of photographers down the years working for the Associated Press (AP).

“As the only non-local news organization with a guaranteed seat at every execution, the AP is granted special access to prisoners, and as a result the agency has accumulated an unusual set of portraits made shortly before inmates’ executions,” writes Dundon.

Never intended to be seen in aggregate, Dundon argues that the portraits assume a weight and significance when brought together. Prisons are a time capsule so regardless of who is shooting, the visiting booths, prison issue uniforms, standard spectacles and prisoners’ pallid skin are constants throughout. The lighting is artificial adding to the sense of unnaturalness in which the subject and photographer operate. Dundon makes comparison to lauded photographers of our time.

The portraits are uncanny for a wire service. Eerily intimate, carefully composed. There are echoes of Robert Bergman or Bruce Gilden,” he writes.

If art exists here, I’d argue it is not in the individual portraits per se but in Dundon’s grouping. A whole greater than its parts. Looking into the eyes of these condemned men provides a view into the soul of a nation. Here’s a gallery of American vengeance. An album devoted to violence in response to violence.

PaccarikOrue

Paccarik Orue. BS Ice Cream, I Love Ice Cream, 2010. From the series ‘There is Nothing Beautiful Around Here.’

When mentioning, yesterday, that the Status Update book is now on sale, I listed the press thus far. Hours after I published that post, Michael Shaw published his own — a review of the show at Reading The Pictures. More accurately a review of the edit of images within the projects.

Shaw’s review, titled Silicon Valley in the Mirror pairs some images and makes juxtaposition between others. It’s full of the pep and the frenetic keen-eyed we’ve come to expect of RTP articles.

I think Shaw is being deliberately provocative putting Silicon Valley front and center of the title and piece; he knows Rian Dundon, Catchlight and I wanted to create a show that went beyond the “tech narratives” but Shaw, to be fair, makes good points to say that all aspects of this Bay Area region are (knowlingly or unknowingly) in response or conversation with tech monies, people, culture and economies.

On Talia Herman‘s photographs of her family and his comment that “the symptom on the flip side of the [tech] boom is narcolepsy” I reckon Shaw misinterpreted the images and our curation. If there’s a slowness in the countryside and in the last embers of counter culture, it’s still a chosen sleepier pace; a calm, not a fatigue.

I love, though, what Shaw had to say about Paccarik Orue‘s portrait of a Sikh ice-cream vendor in Richmond:

“So much for virtual reality and commodification. In Orue’s photo, a sense of place (and respectful commerce, too) comes from identity and ritual, faith and ethnicity, as well as all the old flavors of the neighborhood.”

Good stuff.

 

Read Status Update: Silicon Valley in the Mirror

Status Update

WARM OFF THE PRESS

The Status Update publication which accompanies the exhibition of the same name is now available.

If you’d like a copy email me at prisonphotography(at)gmail[dot]com. Retailing at $25.

A perfect-bound, 128-page, softcover book featuring the work by Lily Chen, Janet Delaney, Sergio De La Torre, Rian Dundon, Robert Gumpert, Pendarvis Harshaw, Talia Herman, Elizabeth Lo, Laura Morton, Paccarik Orue, Brandon Tauszik, Joseph Rodriguez, Dai Sugano and Sam Wolson.

Introduction by Raj Jayadev, coordinator for Silicon Valley De-Bug and an interview with San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi.
 
5.5 x 8.5 inches
ISBN 978-0-692-55576-7
Edition of 1,000 (November 2015)

Designed by the genius Bonnie Briant.

Produced by Catchlight, Status Update curated by Rian Dundon and myself is an exhibition of photography and video about change, chance and inequality in the San Francisco Bay Area. It premiered at SOMArts in San Francisco in November 2015.

PRESS

Laurence Butet-Roch reflected for Time: Witness the Complex Evolution of the San Francisco Bay Area

California Sunday Magazine gave us a showing: Long Exposure: New Exhibit Captures Residents Experiencing the Boom and Bust of the Bay Area

Mark Murrmann wrote a glowing preview for Mother Jones: These Photos Show the Bay Area You’ll Never See From a Google Bus

Stanford Ethics students got to grips with the show: Adjusting our Focus: the Tech Boom through a Different Lens

Mashable threw down a gallery: Photos Capture Inequality and Change in San Francisco Bay Area

Wired offered great support with Laura Mallonee‘s feature: Capturing the Bay Area’s Diversity — and Rapid Change

Erin Baldassari for the East Bay Express reviewed the show with focus on Oakland-based artists: Beyond Black and White: Nuanced Ways of Documenting the Housing Crisis

Silicon Valley DeBug, with whom we partnered in the show posted for their committed South Bay community and following.

And finally, I was interviewed by Doug Bierend for Vice: ‘Status Update’ Captures the Evolution of the Bay Area

GET IT NOW

The book’s going to last longer than any of the prints and beyond next years traveling exhibit. Whether it will last as long as the issues that are percolating here in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley, we’ll see.

If you’d like a copy email me at prisonphotography(at)gmail[dot]com. Retailing at $25.

EMAIL

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