I am pleased and honored to share Scott Houston's insight into the overwhelming subject of the racist mass incarceration of Americans, Incarceration Inc.: Today's American Slavery. The project features male and female inmates of Estrella Jail in Phoenix, Arizona, shown inside the jail, and outside performing their chain gang duties, and is accompanied by Scott's impassioned writing.
"The United States now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world by far, with 2.2 million citizens in prisons or jail. This phenomenon has generally been driven by changes in laws, policing, and sentencing, not by changes in behavior. The results have disproportionately impacted poor and disenfranchised communities mostly people of color, and African American men. These historic changes remain nearly invisible to many Americans.
"American slavery was technically abolished in 1865, but a loophole in the 13th Amendment has allowed it to continue as "punishment for crimes" well into the 21st century. Corporations have lobbied for a broader definition of "crime" in the last 150 years. As a result, there are more dark-skinned people performing mandatory, essentially unpaid, hard labor in America today than there were in 1830. The vast majority of prisoners have been locked up for non-violent, victimless crimes, many of them drug related. With such a large population incarcerated it comes as no surprise that big business began tapping into this potentially cost-free workforce.
"Incarceration is the new American slavery. This slavery is supported by laws and corporate interests."
"McDonalds, the world's most successful fast food franchise, purchases a plethora of goods manufactured in prisons, including plastic cutlery, containers, and uniforms. The inmates who sew McDonalds uniforms make even less money by the hour than the people who wear them. Wal-Mart's company policy clearly states that "forced or prison labor will not be tolerated by Wal-Mart" when basically every item in their store has been supplied by third party prison labor factories. Wal-Mart purchases its produce from prison farms, where laborers are often subjected to long hours in the blazing heat without adequate food or water. Other corporate businesses that profit from exploiting free prison labor are: Bank of America, K-Mart, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Koch Industries, Microsoft, Pfizer, Pepsi, Shell, Starbucks, UPS, Verizon, Wendy's, and many, many more.
"Incarceration Inc. Today's American Slavery" is a multi-media project that addresses mass incarceration in the United States. American prisons today are functioning as commercial enterprises, backed by corporations. The U.S. justice system is riddled with racial oppression. Private business are taking advantage of vulnerable, powerless, and disenfranchised prisoners who are mostly people of color, and African American men. The invisible exploitation of cost-free inmate labor is growing."
Troy Colby shared this intimate project during the PhotoNOLA portfolio reviews in December of last year. Troy brought so much emotion to our meeting both through the photographs of his little boy, and through our conversation. Struggling to make sense for himself and his kid, he's been making these loving but painful portraits; he worries his kid is not keen on his dad making photos while he is suffering, but I hope that sharing them might help other families dealing with migraine.
This will pass, I promise you.
"The nights are long and our days are short. Sometimes the moments slip past us. Other times they move so slow that you are unable to hold still. Your determination keeps you going until your body is tired and hurting. This frustration of having to stop is tough and I know that it puts a pressure on you that we are unable to see. Same for your migraines, I know that it is frustrating. No child of your age should have this pain or feel this way but yet you keep on. You have always felt the need to always keep moving and busy. I am sorry you have picked up this trait from me, if I could change it I would. I am still learning to deal with and handle your mood swings from total excitement to the sudden changes of fear, anger and sadness."
"For me as your dad, I wonder many times where and what did I do wrong? I know this is not necessarily the case. It leaves me searching and wanting to understand. I picked up my camera really not knowing where it would lead. I know you do not want your image taken and for that I am sorry. I have found in using my camera in capturing these moments, I am able to approach this with a new level of understanding and peace. It allows me to be in a state where I can be a better dad for you during this time. I hope that all of this will pass as time goes on for you."
"Daniel Cooney Fine Art is pleased to announce our first solo exhibition of photographs by renowned photographer Anthony Friedkin titled The Gay Essay. The exhibition consists of approximately 50 vintage black and white photographs documenting gay communities in Los Angeles and San Francisco between the tumultuous years of 1969 and 1973."
Michelle Dancing, Hollywood, 1972
Here we are again, friends, fighting for our rights, 40+ years later.
"We hope that this exhibition will serve as a reminder of the distance already traveled and as a source of strength to those facing similar challenges today. In conjunction with this show we will host a series of lectures and discussions on making meaningful artwork in a hostile society."
Still to come in the series:
Saturday, February 11, 2017 at 3 pm, "Articulating the Opposition" Panel discussion
Tuesday, February 28th, 2017 at 7 pm, Artist's talk with Elle Perez.
The Gay Essay was first exhibited in its entirety at the de Young Museum in San Francisco and published as a book by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and Yale University Press in 2014. Anthony Friedkin's work is in the permanent collections of the J. Paul Getty Musuem, the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
EFREM ZELONY-MINDELL: Excited to be talking to you about your work from Reykjavík. Why don't we start by telling a bit about the why and what of the work we are looking at here.
PATRICE HELMAR: I first went to Reykjavík in 2012 to attend a workshop with Mary Ellen Mark. At the time I was a public school teacher, and bartender living in Alaska. I'd never had the luxury of devoting all of my time to making photographs. I fell in love with Iceland, or more accurately Icelanders. Being there was familiar and foreign at the same time. Iceland has so much culturally and politically going for it that I wish for as an Alaskan - as an American. Northerners share certain traits: strong mythologies, love of drink, resilience, an understanding of darkness and light - both in our physical world, and within.
EZM: Your practice of people is personally fascinating to me. You make first interactions personal; it reads in the work. Is there a most important part for you in gaining peoples' intrigue?
PH: No matter what we do as people, or photographers, our intentions in regard to others are clear. Very few people are able to hide how they feel. If I can avoid inserting myself, I do. It's not that I'm invisible, as some photographers describe themselves. I'm there. I show myself. I'm like a bull in a China Shop, hard to miss. A better door, than a window. I generally just smile, or nod - in New York, most people are so busy it's a non issue. If someone asks why I'm photographing them, I'm honest about it. Thomas Roma taught me that - if you think someone's beautiful, it's okay to say that. It works if you mean it.
EZM: Do you find lasting relationships with these people? Maybe lasting isn't even important, passionate may be more significant?
PH: The photographs I made in Iceland, I spent days and nights with people. I'd follow folks home from the bar, and we'd spend evenings walking around the city together - or I'd find myself at an after hours party. I returned in 2014, two years later and met back up with people I'd photographed, and met new characters. My friend Dyrfínna is someone I met in my favorite bar in downtown Reykjavík. We're still in contact. I photographed her on both trips. We say, "I love you" to each other.
Passion is possible, but it isn't always relevant. It's about making the work. The anecdotes don't matter - the photographs do. I'm not always going to be around to talk about them, and that's something I keep in mind.
EZM: If the photograph is most important then why the people? Is that just happenstance?
PH: What I meant was my personal anecdotes don't matter. Recounting my experiences or feelings, and doing a song and dance to try to make someone care more about my work is cheap. It's in the photograph. Happenstance is important. Being ready to meet chance, yes that's part of it. I prefer the word luck, and that doesn't come often without a good amount of work.
EZM: Are you excited about anything right now? Where's your luck looking these days?
PH: I wouldn't say I'm excited, but I'm hopeful. I keep making photographs, and that's life affirming. Luck is like the weather. I'm superstitious, and try not to talk about it. I grew up fishing in Alaska - if someone commented on it being nice out on the water, it was tempting fate. I'm always afraid of the other shoe falling.
EZM: I'm of the opinion that music and literature is pretty important to you. I also think it's pretty important to photography in general. I'd love to close by sharing a favorite ending that makes me think of your Reykavik work. I'll share mine, if you'll share me yours. Mine comes from John Logan's play RED.
Rothko: "You need to get out there now, into the thick of it, shake your fist at them, talk their ear off...
Make them look. When I was your age, art was a lonely thing: no galleries, no collecting, no critics, no money. We didn't have mentors. We didn't have parents. We were alone. But it was a great time, because we had nothing to lose and a vision to gain. Okay?"
PH: "It is a curious emotion, this certain homesickness I have in mind. With Americans, it is a national trait, as native to us as the roller-coaster or the jukebox. It is no simple longing for the home town or country of our birth. The emotion is Janus-faced: we are torn between a nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known." - Carson McCullers
Patrice Helmar is a graduate from Columbia University's MFA program. She lives and works in New York City where she teaches and lectures. Helmar has shown her work domestically and internationally at various institutions and galleries including the Jewish Museum, National Museum of Iceland, Houston Center for Photography, Fisher Landau Center, and the Anchorage Museum.
A newly curated series of David Bailey's quiet photos of the NW1 area of London taken in the early 80s is available in a gorgeously printed, small but perfectly formed, limited edition book from HENI Publishing in London. Cop a load of the blacks in these images and then, if you can, go see the prints which are on show through the end of January at HENI's gallery space, 6 - 10 Lexington Street, in the heart of London's Soho.
"Pushing back against the voices of intolerance by celebrating the beauty and strength of New York's diversity."
"This project aims to publish a hardcover book of social documentary photographs taken on Broadway, not the theater district but the 13 mile long street that runs through the entirety of Manhattan. The collection is a meditation on the city's diversity and the tolerance that holds it together.
"I'm launching this in this moment because I want to be proactive and push back against the intolerant voices that are overpowering the conversation and sowing the seeds of division by presenting a celebration of the great strength that comes from embracing diversity. New York's success over the years, it's growth into one of the worlds capital cities is proof of this.
"In a desire to spread the word beyond the 'bubble' of Manhattan and other urban centers I'll going to match every backer by donating a copy to free to a school or college."
A fabulous new project from Evelina Reinhart, a photographer whose work with food brought us The Joy of Eating, a photo series-turned-book about food for acid reflux sufferers that she made as her thesis project at SVA. Next up is 'Our Appetite for Trends.'
"They come and go as quickly as the next runway show. Technically, perhaps, they're comestibles, but what we're devouring are trends. If it's not in Vogue it's not going into our mouths."
Read all the color stories over at Evy's website, and see prints this week at Gallery 128, as part of The Fun Food Show, opening December 1st, 2016. Private reception, December 9th, 2016, 6-9pm. 128 Rivington Street, NYC.
Evy tells me it took about 30 hours to create one image. She's a fantastic food stylist. "The canvas was large, 30 x 35 inches, and it was filled with real food and then photographed."