Location: San Rafael, California, United States
This project shows prison inmates who are discovering, developing, and sometimes mastering artistic expression; it celebrates the humanity of these men and women, and the authenticity of their creative pursuits.
I grew up in an environment of emotional trauma, which led to a rather lost and unhappy young man. My search for healing led me down many paths, the most sustained of which has been my discovery of art—specifically photography—as a means of healing and self-expression. I believe this background developed in me an empathy toward others who had a difficult start in life, and an appreciation of art as a means to greater fulfillment.
Consequently, when I was offered the opportunity to document art classes at a nearby prison, it felt like a good fit. But how to photograph them? Natural light is rare in prisons, and I quickly discovered that the available overhead lights gave my photos a grim, murky, oppressive air—which was not at all how I experienced the art classes. So I take in my own lights.
My initial shooting style was fairly objective, a fly-on-the-wall perspective—but this soon felt inadequate to my experience of the passion, joy, and commitment of the artists. So I started working closer, engaging more, and eventually collaborating with the subjects of my photos.
I have come to greatly appreciate and identify with these incarcerated men and women, and with their passionate desire to discover and give voice to their authentic selves.