Lee Grant – Photography Blog

Posts Tagged ‘james nachtwey

Godforsaken: Photography, prisons and incarceration

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After  recently photographing the now empty Belconnen Remand Centre as part of my Belco Pride series, I came across a rather interesting blog called Prison Photography: the practice of photography in sites of incarceration when doing some further research into the culture of incarceration.  I’ve been wanting to photograph in Belco Remand for a while now but never had any luck. Now that they’ve shut down and moved their tenants to the new Alexander Maconochie Centre, I was able to get a pretty good tour of the place thanks to an open day… billed, believe it or not, as a family event. And the families were out in force – kinda weird and I dare say a bit of a joke for the parents showing their kids where home could be if they were naughty (my kids intuitively refused to come!). Seemed a strange PR excercise – if indeed that’s what it was – as it really reinforced how appalling conditions can be in such a place. Perhaps the popularity of the occasion simply boiled down to a case of schadenfreude, wanting to see how law-breakers can live alongside our shopping malls, schools and suburban homes. In any case, I was suitably dismayed and (I admit) aesthetically delighted with the original interiors and fittings.

Somewhat disturbingly, visitors were greeted with the following German quote “Arbeit Macht Frei” (which is a slogan known for being placed at the entrances of a number of Nazi concentration camps during WWII. It translates roughly as “Work makes one free”).  “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” was also scrawled in English below it. Overall quite a surreal, confronting and sad experience.

Anyway, here are just a few pics from the sojourn:

belco_remand_3

belco_remand_1

belco_remand_2

belco_remand_4Belco Remand Centre, 2009 (Belco Pride Series)

Of course there is a long tradition of photographers telling stories about prisons and exploring the culture and brutality of incarceration. How they gain access is a mystery to me. Here are some images from just a few photographers who have made some jaw-dropping images in prisons. For more insightful ruminations on prison photography go check out Prison Photography:

CP_02James Nachtwey, Prisoner on the chain gang, Alabama 1994 (Crime and Punishment series)

mikhaelsubotzky305Mikhael Subotsky (Beaufort West series)

8Yana Payusova Eye of Faith, 2005 (Russian Prison series)

Running with wolves and a bit of Sugar….

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So, it’s been a few hectic days… actually weeks! I’ll try to keep brief as I have a date with my couch, a bad DVD (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and 2-minute noodles for dinner (the kids are away and I’m simply hopeless at dinner for one!).

So first up and to follow on from my last post, I’m posting Nachtwey’s Ted clip that we were all looking forward to seeing. It’s moving, there is little doubt about it, and he produces eloquent and meaningful work… but really, I was kinda expecting something a little more earth moving; maybe I’m just feeling a little bummed about traditional documentary these days – I also just came back from the opening of the 2008 Leica Documentary Prize exhibition tonight, which I realised I’d already seen (and critiqued on this very blog) earlier this year. Ho hum… I’m waiting for the revolution:

This morning I also got an alert via APE about a post that Amy Stein had written regarding a new documentary film called “Who does she think she is”. Well, you can imagine my excitement, relief and anticipation for a film about the difficulties faced by women in the art world! I’m quite relieved to see that it isn’t just me banging on about this issue – and whilst I don’t like to re-iterate the argument for the sake of it – I do believe it’s an important discussion for the art world to have and to recognise. Here’s a sneak peek:

Looks tres interesting indeed.

Lastly, and cos I’m hungry, I’ll sign off with a photo I took at the weekend at a friend’s place. I dunno why, but I love this picture. I feel like I’m in a kid’s picture book… the kind I still like to read…..

Sugar

Written by Lee Grant

October 8, 2008 at 7:58 pm

When you wish upon a star… called Ted.

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Early last year I think I referenced in a post James Nachtwey’s Ted Prize ‘wish to change the world’. Well, this Friday that wish will be given a global launch from NY to London to Sydney and Montevideo and lots of other places! But because I’m in dear old provincial Canberra, I’ll be watching it online. Here is a link with the date of the breaking story (visit this on Friday! Actually maybe Saturday for us Antipodeans??):

I must say I’m a little intrigued as to what the story is…… Cos let’s face it, we live in a world where there are too many stories that the world needs to know about. It’s unfortunate that we ignore a lot of them. The video by the way, is worth the watch. Very dignified indeed and it’ll be interesting to see how digital technology (ie. blogs like this) helps this to proliferate.

Written by Lee Grant

September 30, 2008 at 10:33 pm

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