Pete Brook is the creator and writer of the Prison Photography Blog that focuses on “The Practice of Photography in Sites of Incarceration”. Part of his personal mission statement explains, “If a camera is within prison walls we should always be asking; How did it get there? What are/were the motives? What are the responses? I consider the photograph as social document, therefore, what social and political powers are at play in a photograph’s manufacture? And, how is knowledge, related to those powers, constructed?” Pete’s very specific focus within the realm of photography leads to an array of topics and images that enlighten us on both the nuances of the prison system and the function of photography to visually stimulate concepts of incarceration.
In a post from October 2009, Pete features the work of Sara Joy Steele and Benjamin Drummond who I had the pleasure of meeting at the FiftyCrows Gallery. The pair have been getting a their names out there with a project called: Facing Climate Change which uses photography, multimedia, and interviews, to tell stories of global climate change through the stories of local people. Below you will read about a collaboration project where Sara Joy Steele and Benjamin Drummond worked with the Sustainable Prison Project, an effort to combine environmental sustainability with social justice.
Benjamin Drummond, Sara Joy Steele, Nature and Washington State Prisons
By Pete Brook
Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele have been in the news recently for their Facing Climate Change initiative. They were featured by PDN as photographers who cared and secured a $10,000 Grant4Change.
I was super happy then, to see them diversify and change focus from massive global issues to the environmental issues of our region here in Washington State.
They teamed up with Dr. Nalini Nadkarni, Evergreen State College and The Sustainable Prisons Project (which I have talked about before) to produce a 7-minute multimedia piece with a gorgeous mix of inmate, staff, student and academic volunteer voices. They also deliver the goods for the stills gallery.
The Sustainable Prison Project has proved that environmental justice, social justice and fiscal conservatism can be delivered all in the same package. I teach in a prison and the resolve to try new programs and learn new skills is not something left wanting.
Drummond and Joy Steele’s documents make it clear more than ever that prisons often are not – and really never should be – the intimidating “neverwheres” that media (often TV and film) depict them as.