It’s not commonly known that most U.S. jails and prisons prohibit prisoners from having access to cameras, or that it hasn’t stopped them from recording images.
Now, as some 2.2 million people are incarcerated around the country, with another 3.8 million people on probation, and an additional 870,000 ex-cons are on parole, creators of a new exhibit want to know: how can prisoners their story visually when they’re unable to control their own representation?
A new Aperture gallery exhibition scheduled for next month complements the publication of “Prison Nation,” the gallery’s spring issue of its magazine — organized with the participation of Nicole R. Fleetwood, an expert on art’s relation to incarceration.
In dealing with the intersection of prison life and photography, the show creates a rare visual record of America’s obsession with incarceration. The exhibition and issue will be augmented by six public programs featuring such speakers as Bruce Jackson, Shani Jamila, Keith Calhoun, Chandra McCormich, Jamel Shabazz, Jesse Krimes, Nigel Poor, Aliya Hana Hussain, Deborah Luster, Sable Elyse Smith, Joseph Rodriguez, with more names to be added
Over the last century, prisons have mushroomed, and become more prevalent, more prominent, and more crowded. According to Fleetwood, “Americans — even those who have never been to a prison or had a relative in prison — need to realize that we are all implicated in a form of governance that uses prison as a solution to many social, economic, and political problems,” Fleetwood notes. Empathy and political awareness are essential to creating systemic change—and through Aperture magazine, and the accompanying exhibition and public programming, “Prison Nation” may provoke us to see parts of ourselves in the lives of those on the inside.
The exhibit opens February 7 at Aperture Gallery and Bookstore, which is located at 547 West 27th Street in New York. For more information, see the Aperture website.
Last modified: January 12, 2018