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Sometimes it’s associated with a British band, and sometimes it associated with people who are banned.

It’s about pills, madness and control. It’s about healing.

It’s about awesome fashions and it’s about bad accessories.

It’s about poor decisions by presidents.

It’s about corporate control and corporate profits.

It’s about death to ours and death to theirs.

Sometimes, it’s about imperialism.

It’s about religious freedom and freedom of religion.

It’s about fake sportspersons and real sportspersons.

It’s about God and it’s about children.

It’s about we the people, not them the people.

It’s about bigotry and it’s about a permanent underclass.

It’s about cold beer, cupcakes and weed.

Images sources: Rolling Stones lips; Prison bars, from Teen in Jail; American flag of pills, by Talia Marisa; Heels, Fashion Munster; Spectacles, Linda Lovelock wears American flag sunglasses during the 2010 Tax Day Tea Party April 15, 2010 in Pleasanton, California. Tea Parties were held across the United States to denounce tax day. More than a thousand people attended the Tax Day Tea Party at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. (April 14, 2010 – Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America); Bush family; Corporation flag; ISBN flag, via Adbusters; Coffin at night, Sudanese men look at the flag-draped coffin of U.S. diplomat John Granville, 33, who worked for the USAID, as it is received by U.S. officials in Khartoum, Jan. 3, 2008. (AP); US flag bomb graphic, via Daily Bleed; Imperialism flag, Christian cross, on eBay; Star-spangled burqa; Rocky Balboa shorts; Olympic winners, via Astropix (Teammates in the USA women’s 4 x 100 meter relay swim team stop in front of a giant American flag to wave to fans after winning the gold medal and setting a world record in the finals of the event during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. From left are Jenna Johnson, Dara Torres, Carrie Steinseifer, and Nancy Hogshead.); Child’s drawing, via Fire Andrea Mitchell; School class photo, via Valley Community Newspaper (The Girl Scouts who meet for troop activities at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School had an American flag flown over the nation’s capitol on Dec. 6 to honor the school. Photo Credit: Unknown); Immigration wall graphic, by Luis Boix; “Does my fag offend you?” bumper sticker; Immigrant labour graphic, by La Mustia; Supermarket beers, via Corks and Kegs; Cupcakes, The Cupcake blog; Spliff, from Rolling Stone via The War on Drugs is a War on Me.

1

The blogo-photo-sphere has been spinning the past couple of days with the 2009 Pulitzer Prize announcements. Damon Winter took one gong for “his memorable array of pictures deftly capturing multiple facets of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.” (Featured Photography). Patrick Farrell secured the other with his “provocative, impeccably composed images of despair after Hurricane Ike and other lethal storms caused a humanitarian disaster in Haiti.” (Breaking News Story)

Winter’s images are eye-catching, but to be honest I am suffering from ‘Obama-fatigue’. So saturated were we with so many high-quality images of the new 44th President, I now look for different material. A quick shufties through Winters website revealed all. His portraits of sports stars show a precocious willing to improvise with technique and composition. Winter has a seriously sentimental side also epitomised by his portraits of American Olympians from the 1984 Los Angeles games.

I guess, my hope is that he doesn’t become known as ‘that guy that did Obama’ … which is why I am more interested in his Angola Prison Rodeo photojournalism.

4

The rodeo featuring the prisoners of Louisiana State Penitentiary, commonly known as Angola, is an old – even traditional – event in the Louisiana calendar. Damon Winter is one of many photographers that have covered the community event. It is a raucous spectacle that brings together populations in and outside of the prison.

I still cannot reconcile this event my existing ethics which this event. There’s a charge that the rodeo is exploitative entertainment for which prisoners can suffer serious injury. Yet, I have not witnessed the rodeo-weekend first hand and I have read in the past that this is an event that provides long-term focus and short-term adulation for the prisoner-competitors. All I want to do is bring Winter’s photographs to your attention and hope they’ll compete with Obama for your attentions!

3

Winter’s pictures capture the strong forces and consequent risks of rodeo competition. I deliberately picked his colour images. The black & white stripes of inmates harry within Winter’s ‘red, white and blue’ palette. The star-spangled palette imbues the series with patriotism, pomp and faux-purpose. I almost feel we are subliminally less inclined to question Angola’s unique display of pseudo-gladiatorial entertainment when the games are suffused with hues of the American flag.

2

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View Damon Winter’s Obama campaign coverage for the New York Times, and listen to an audio interview with Winter about his experiences. Winter and PDN did an interview in 2008.

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