Writing with Photography

December 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

Illiteracy.

If there is one demon that will hamper the accessibility of  my NPJP to the entire US prison population,  is the inability of many on the inside to read or write.

But, I believe I have found the answer to this dilemma, which had not previously crossed my mind, until I read Pete Brook’s blog entitled Photography School: Rehabilitating Prisoners through Self-Representation. The blog was not about illiteracy, but as I’ve mentioned before, I look at all information I find through the lens of making the National Prison Journal Project successful.

Because conceptualization and the ability to read are not tied into one another, transformative information can be provided in forms other than the written word.  We see this everyday.  People are empowered to make personal changes in eating habits, sometimes to extremes, because of an image they interact with on TV or an old photograph.  More people have the confidence to travel to new places because of the images provided them on a map or via GPS.  These may be simple examples, but they prove that the information communicated through the image can cause people to expand and transform.  It gives them a level of hope and desire.  Both primary goals of NPJP.

Many publications targeting inmates feature drawings, paintings and poetry as art, but I’ve seen little photography.  In a situation where personal identity is so crucial, for a host of reasons, a photographic image could be a crucial rehabilitative step for many, not only those that cannot read or write.  With this new insight, it is clear that a good portion of the final National Prison Journal will incorporate extensive imagery.

Pete’s article helped me to identify and solve a weakness in my plan, but also opened me to another way to create the conversational tone I want for the journal via the “crowd-sourced” blog model being used by Livebooks.  He is utilizing this model as a framework for the Race, Diversity, Photography project he revealed in his interview with POSI+TIVE MAGAZINE.  The “crowd-source” model will allow a level of input and collaboration on journal contents that has never before been applied to a prison publication.

I’m thankful to Pete for publicizing this information and helping me make a great idea more accessible and achievable – even though he doesn’t know it.

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Doing Time on the Outside by Donald Braman

December 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

For the Family section of the journal I have contacted Prof. Donald Braman of George Washington University Law School.  His book Doing Time on the Outside: Incarceration and Family Life in Urban America will hopefully be a starting point for the type of stories for the Family section.  (I’m trying to think of another name.)

As with Prof. Henry Jenkins, I have asked for permission to reprint/excerpt his book and other writings.  These requests surround the draft copy I am pulling together along with the first edition, after which a tremendous response is expected and an equally tremendous amount of material. I anticipate the “outside” audience to be a little slower in coming to the fold, which is why these ubiquitous accounts, already in print, are so valuable.

From Amazon.com: 

In the tradition of the best-selling ethnographies No Shame in My Game by Katherine Newman and Sidewalk by Mitchell Duneier, Doing Time on the Outside tells the other side of the incarceration saga: the little-told story of the effects of imprisonment on the families of the prisoners.
Since 1970 the incarceration rate in the U.S. has more than tripled, and in many cities — urban centers such as Washington, D.C. — it has increased over five-fold. Today, one out of every ten adult black men in the District is in prison. This has caused a deep rupture in the lives of the prisoners and their families.
Author Donald Braman shows that doing time on the inside has a ripple effect on the outside — one that reaches far beyond the individual prisoner and deep into the family itself. Braman offers wrenching personal stories of the ordeals families face when one of their members is imprisoned. Citing major examples such as lost income and delayed parenting opportunities, he also uncovers seemingly innocuous details that nevertheless have a cumulatively adverse effect; for example, the onerously large phone bills that often result when a family member goes to prison.
This ground-breaking ethnography of modern urban America reveals a genuinely new argument: how misguided the commonly accepted ideas about supposed pride in prison time really are. Moreover, Braman brings to light the darker side of a system that is failing not only its criminals, but their families, too. Finally, the author argues that prisoners themselves must take more responsibility for their lives, as well as for their families.

THANK YOU – insidetime newspaper!

December 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

I have been lax in thanking Mr. John Roberts – Operations Director at InsideTime the National Newspaper for Prisoners in the United Kingdom.

The existence of InsideTime made me believe that this project could really happen and Mr. Roberts has been a great support.  Honestly, I was surprised when he answered that first email to him – it was so long and disjointed.  Excitement can do that to a message.  But…he listened and pledged his support with guidance and information. I cannot ask for anything more!

They recently celebrated their 20th anniversary of providing invaluable information to the prison community and to others.  I can’t wait for NPJP to be in the same position.

A foreshadow of what’s to come….

InsideTime November 2010

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