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Susan Wright. © Matthew Rainwaters

Matthew RainwatersOffender, an assignment for Esquire and Texas Monthly, depicts “two very different inmates inside the Texas Department of Corrections.”

The first is some bloke with a history of fraud and a penchant for escape.

I am more interested in juxtaposing Rainwaters’ portraits of a husband-killer and the prosecution attorney.


Susan Wright was convicted of murder after stabbing her husband 193 times. She was recently granted an appeal and may be released after re-sentencing.

Prosecuting attorney Kelly Preistner doesn’t buy the battered woman’s syndrome defense. During closing arguments she reenacted stabbing her assistant 193 times for the jury.

Kelly Priestner. © Matthew Rainwaters


Generally, I don’t know what to make of commercial work and portraiture done inside prisons. I think I’ve only featured it once before on Prison Photography with a nod to Andrew Hetherington’s work for Wired on a story about cell phones and security breaches.

Evidently, Rainwaters’ is motivated to go beyond the requirements of assignment; he’s got the prison photography bug!

In an interview over at electronic beats he describes the fortune of the two stories coming at once, but that they catalysed a body of work upon which he wants to expand:

The [Offender] series came to life when a writer that I’ve worked with, Alex Hannaford, called me to shoot a story he was doing. It was on Steven Russell a former con man and escape artist. Later Texas Monthly was doing a feature on Susan Wright, so Skip Hollandsworth, the writer, and I went out to get the story. After shooting those two features I had a body of work that I really want to continue, that was the start of the portfolio.

Rainwaters goes onto explain he hopes to photograph at Guantanamo. This leap is remarkable. I would not expect a commercial or editorial photographer to make such a transition. For me it stands to reason that one discusses Guantanamo and illegal US prisons in the same context as homeland penitentiaries, but I don’t expect others to always hold the same opinion. That a photographer is pressing this line is intriguing.

I’ll be eager to show Rainwaters’ Guantanamo work when it surfaces.

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You can also see the selection of Rainwaters’ work at Behance.

Thanks to Scott for the tip.



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