Pete Brook: ‘Tattoos, scars and tears, Robert Gumpert’s work in San Francisco jails’
This week, Pete Brook came in from Seattle to speak to #picbod students about the work of Robert Gumpert in San Francisco jails. This was an amazing opportunity for #picbod students and a real honour for the class. The audio is now available to listen to here and will be available shortly on our iTunesU page.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF PRISON PHOTOGRAPHY (IN LOOSE CATEGORIES)
Before the golden age of photojournalism, the photographing of prisoners was used for purposes of identification, order and discipline. The two part mugshot (front view and profile view) was standardised by Alphonse Bertillion. Police departments adopting the system had in-house technicians and photographers but they are anonymous in history.
American prisons fell on to the radar of professional and committed photojournalists in the sixties and seventies, more and more. Three Magnum photographers (Eve Arnold, Bruno Barbey, Danny Lyon) went to Texas. Arnold returned to the subject again and again. The Lone Star state had a punitive prison culture with reform commonly taking the form of hard labor on the chain gang; images echoed those of slavery in the South.
The “exotic” prison (Late 70s, 80s, USA):
Morrie Camhi’s photographs of California prisoners remain some of the most authentic portraits made within US prisons. Douglas Hall Kent, spent years and published at least two books on prison tattoos. Garry Winograndstopped by Huntsville for the prison rodeo. The much lesser known Ethan Hoffman produced a book titled Concrete Mama about Walla Walla Penitentiary in Washington State. The brutality and tenderness of interactions between prisoners as depicted by Hoffman are surprisingly frank.
Pioneers in prison documentary photography/photojournalism (1980s and 90s in USA):
Contemporary to the Americans (above) was the anomalous Jean Gaumy. In 1976, Gaumy was the first photographer allowed access to a French Prison.
Contemporary prison photography (1990s, 2000s):
Collaborative/rehabilitative projects (2000s):
Casey Orr (Leeds, England), Mohamed Bourouissa (Paris, France); Deborah Luster (Louisiana, USA), Klavdij Sluban (France and Eastern Europe), Mikhael Subotzky (South Africa), Steve Davis (Washington State, USA); Robert Gumpert (San Francisco, USA); Leah Tepper Byrne (USA)
……………..continued at Pete’s prisonphotography blog.