CR Blog

Prison Landscapes

Photography

Posted by Mark Sinclair, 21 November 2012, 13:51    Permalink    Comments (1)

New book, Prison Landscapes, features images of a largely unseen part of prison life – the idealised backdrops used for taking photographs of inmates during visiting hours...

Published by Four Corners Books in the UK, the project is the work of Los Angeles-based artist, Alyse Emdur.

In 2005, Emdur came across a photograph of herself posing in front of a tropical beach scene while visiting her older brother in prison (shown below).

 

Since discovering the picture, Emdur has invited hundreds of American prisoners to send her photographs for inclusion in this collection (150 agreed to participate).

 

Robert Ruffbery, Atlanta


Charles Derrick Keller, Marion, Illinois


Antoine Ealy, Coleman, Florida


The backdrops, which range from sandy beaches and waterfalls, to mountain vistas and cityscapes, are often painted by inmates and used within the prisons as de facto portrait studios.

As inmates and visitors pose for photographs in front of these fantasy landscapes, they offer a brief form of escapism for both parties. The visitor is able to take home a picture of their loved-one, perhaps making the situation a little easier to bear.

But as Pete Brook notes on his excellent Prison Photography website, prisonphotography.org, "If these idyllic landscapes are about escape it might not just be in an emotional sense". He interviewed Emdur about the project earlier this year (read the full text here):

"The backdrops are there to control the type of imagery that is being exported out of the institution," she says. "To be specific, the administration doesn't want images of the inside of the prison to circulate outside of the prison because the thinking is that those images could help an inmate escape. That's what makes these images slippery and interesting; they also create an escape for the poser and for the [family member] who receives the photo."

As Brook says, these are, in the end, images about control.

More of Emdur's work is at alyseemdur.com. Prison Landscapes is published by Four Corners Books; fourcornersbooks.co.uk.

 

CR for the iPad

Read in-depth features and analysis plus exclusive iPad-only content in the Creative Review iPad App. Longer, more in-depth features than we run on the blog, portfolios of great, full-screen images and hi-res video. If the blog is about news, comment and debate, the iPad is about inspiration, viewing and reading. As well as providing exclusive, iPad-only content, the app will also update with new content throughout each month. Try a free sample issue here.


CR In print

In our December issue we look at why carpets are the latest medium of choice for designers and illustrators. Plus, Does it matter if design projects are presented using fake images created using LiveSurface and the like? Mark Sinclair looks in to the issue of mocking-up. We have an extract from Craig Ward's upcoming book Popular Lies About Graphic Design and ask why advertising has been so poor at preserving its past. Illustrators' agents share their tips for getting seen and we interview maverick director Tony Kaye by means of his unique way with email. In Crit, Guardian economics leader writer Aditya Chakrabortty review's Kalle Lasn's Meme Wars and Gordon Comstock pities brands' long-suffering social media managers. In a new column on art direction, Paul Belford deconstructs a Levi's ad that was so wrong it was very right, plus, in his brand identity column, Michael Evamy looks at the work of Barcelona-based Mario Eskenazi. And Daniel Benneworth-Gray tackles every freelancer's dilemma - getting work.

Our Monograph this month, for subscribers only, features the EnsaïmadART project in which Astrid Stavro and Pablo Martin invited designers from around the world to create stickers to go on the packaging of special edition packaging for Majorca's distinctive pastry, the ensaïmada, with all profits going to a charity on the island (full story here)

Please note, CR now has a limited presence on the newsstand at WH Smith high street stores (although it can still be found in WH Smith travel branches at train stations and airports). If you cannot find a copy of CR in your town, your WH Smith store or a local independent newsagent can order it for you. You can search for your nearest stockist here. Alternatively, call us on 020 7970 4878 to buy a copy direct from us. Based outside the UK? Simply call +44(0)207 970 4878 to find your nearest stockist. Better yet, subscribe to CR for a year here and save yourself almost 30% on the printed magazine.

1 Comment

Thanks for the post. I can't stop thinking about all of the implications in prision photography and especially those scenes from Emdur's book. Gonna go re-read Foucault's Discipline and Punish and Kafka's "In the Penal Colony."
daniel presnell
2012-11-22 21:24:29


Tell us what you think

What happens with my feedback?

We no longer require you to register and have a password in order to comment, simply fill in the form below. All comments are moderated so you may experience a short delay before your comment appears. CR encourages comments to be short and to the point. As a general rule, they should not run longer than the original post. Comments should show a courteous regard for the presence of other voices in the discussion. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments that do not adhere to this standard.

Get the RSS Feed
NULL