Prison Photography

Pete Brook is a Portland-based writer, journalist, and curator whose work represents an impressive catalogue and history of prison photography.

The video above was made by Tim Matsui in 2011, who accompanied Pete on the road for a week and documented his work, including a workshop delivered at Sing Sing Prison in New York: “With an eye toward prison reform, writer and academic Pete Brook analyzes prison photography from behind his desk. After three years, he decided it was time to get out, on the road, and meet the people he’d written about. Especially the prisoners.”

Pete answers the question, Why photography? 

Cameras and their operators function in recording, and to some degree, interpreting the stories of (and within) prison systems. How varied is the imagery?

If a camera is within prison walls we should always be asking; How did it get there? What are/were the motives? What are the responses? What social and political powers are at play in a photograph’s manufacture? And, how is knowledge, related to those powers, constructed?

Prison Photography also concerns itself with civil liberties, ethics and social justice as they relate to photography and photojournalism.

(text from Prison Photography)

His website offers a wealth of thoughtful writing, news, photographs, and links to prison blogs, artists’ websites, and resources on prison education and reform. Be sure to check it out.

Photo by Jack Jeffries

Photo by Jack Jeffries

We are lucky enough to have Pete visit Over These Prison Walls on October 30th.

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