Inspiring and thought-provoking art experiences for the Evergreen community and the Puget Sound region.

Prison Obscura Postcard

Current Exhibition: Prison Obscura

Curated by Prison Photography editor Pete Brook

January 14th – March 2nd 2016

Thursday, Jan 14, 4 – 6 pm—Opening Reception featuring gallery walk-through with curator Pete Brook

Wednesday Jan 27, 11:30 – 1:00 in COM Building Recital Hall—Prison Libraries/Prison Art, as part of the Art Lecture Series, a panel including Laura Sherbo and Pat Graney.

What do we know of our prisons? Do photographs help us know? Are the images of prisons we see reliable? Are they even useful? How do images relate to the political, social, and economic realities that exist within our prison industrial complex? Do prisons, as closed sites, present any challenges to the claims photography makes as a medium of communication?

Shedding light on the prison-industrial complex through rarely seen vernacular, surveillance, evidentiary, and prisoner-made photographs, Prison Obscura calls upon its audience to consider these questions deeply as they come face to face with the realities of prison life. The bodies of work in Prison Obscura collectively demonstrate the pervasiveness of prisons and the stresses of their ever-growing populations, simultaneously asserting the humanity of incarcerated people and refusing to reduce them to symbols of a broken system.

Through data-driven visualizations, artists Josh Begley and Paul Rucker examine prisons across the United States, highlighting their mass construction and architectural similarity. Workshops led by Kristen S. Wilkins and Evergreen State College faculty Steve Davis allow juvenile and adult prisoners the opportunity to self-represent through performative portraiture and image-making. Collected letters and visiting room portraits by Alyse Emdur, oral histories collected and portraits shot by Robert Gumpert, and “photographs of places missed” requested by incarcerated people and fulfilled by Mark Strandquist go beyond the identity of “prisoner” to give intimate insight into the experiences and desires of incarcerated people. Prison Obscura also features a stunning collection of evidence images from Brown v. Plata a class-action lawsuit against the state of California related to prison overcrowding and access to medical care.

Get more information about college-wide programs.

Download the Prison Obscura catalogue.

Prison Obscura is a traveling exhibition curated by Pete Brook and made possible with the support of the John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities and Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery at Haverford College, Haverford, PA.