FiftyCrows Blog

Social Change Photography

Archive for the ‘Prison’ Category

Facing Climate Change and the Sustainable Prison Project

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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

Drummond, Joy Steele

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.

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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.

Marizilda Cruppe – Brazilian EVE Photographer

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Marizilda Cruppe is a Rio de Janeiro-based photographer, shooting mostly for O Globo (Brazilian Newspaper and media group) Sunday magazine supplement. Her personal work is concentrated on examining Brazilian social inequality, poverty and human rights violation. She is also a founder member of EVE Photographers. In 2010, Marizilda will be part of the World Press Photo Jury for News and Documentary.

Portfolios:

Pastor Marcos

SF River transpostion

Brazilian northeast migrants

Keeping the Faith

Written by Zara Katz

October 29, 2009 at 5:45 pm

Photo Fund Update Part 2: What Andre Cypriano has to say about working in “no-go-zones”

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“I look people in the eyes. I don’t go in there as a photographer. The experience is more important than the photographs.”

FiftyCrows: What project are you currently working on?

Andre Cypriano: I am deeply involved in the documentation of slums all over the world, or “favelas” as we call it in Brazil. This long-term project is called “Informal Culture.” By now I photographed over 100 favelas, mostly in Rio de Janeiro, Caracas, Buenos Aires, La Paz and Lima. Soon I hope to be able to document the townships of Africa, India and Mexico. Slum remains vastly misunderstood and under-studied. Still too little is known about the origins, demographics, physical and social structures, traditions, cultural production, internal economies, politics, modes of everyday life, and multiple identities of the place that over 1 billion people call home.

FC: How did you become involved/interested in your current work?

27_1AC: My unusual passport into the “no-go zones” of Rio’s favelas originated in the series, The Devil’s Caldron, documenting the notorious island penitentiary Cândido Mendes. I gained the trust of an inmate, Paulinho, one of the leaders of the infamous criminal organization Comando Vermelho – the CV. Paulinho invited me to photograph the place where he grew up, Rocinha, Rio’s meta-favela, with 250,000 inhabitants. The idea was to show that vibrancy and happiness also exists in the favela. That initial adventure led me to other favelas, in Rio and beyond. They are all different. The more I see, the more I want to see.

FC: Can you talk about the project that you focused on for the IFDP grant?

AC: The ROCINHA portfolio was the one born because of IFDP. This community is a place with extreme emotions. It is a Brazil that you will never find in the Copacabana or Ipanema Beach. The slum spreads from the top to the bottom of a mountain. Ironically, it is surrounded by wealth. Living in tightly-packed claustrophobic, collapsing brick and wood shacks, these people have made a choice. They have decided to survive, using whatever resources are available to them.

Because the residents of this neighborhoods, or developing city really, have been neglected by the government, they have set up their own survival system, one ruled by the C.V. drug-traffickers. What makes it so captivating is how clearly this criminal system both terrorizes and supports the people of the “favela”. This is vividly illustrated by the nefarious role of the police who, on a daily basis, violently extort huge sums of money from these members.

Rocinha reputation is so bad that it is very difficult to convince teachers to work in the community. This is partly due to the pervasive culture of violence and apathy in which community behavior repels even such basic assistance. The resultant violence is so extreme that these days, when a shoot-out erupts between C.V., the police or different criminal factions, children continue to play, refusing shelter, inured by the frequency of such activities. Despite all this, nothing is being done to change life in the favelas. As a result, the violence has grown to a point where it is defining Rio de Janeiro globally.12_1

FC: What was the significance of winning the IFDP in your career?

AC: It was my first major award. And besides the great finance support at the time, it was very important for my self-esteem. Because of the IFDP’s world recognition many doors have been opened. Still today, 10 years later, I continue to gain benefits from the award.

FC: Can you give a piece of advice to others doing important work with social change photography?

AC: Don’t leave your portfolio(s) hidden inside the drawers. And never believe that just because you didn’t win one competition, it means that your work is not important or good. I did apply for the IFDP 4 times before I won. It is very important to understand that, maybe because of personal reasons, whoever is judging can be attracted to a different work than yours. Maybe it is just not the right time for that subjected at that institution. Or maybe your photo style was not interesting to just that group of judges. Keep trying. Keep on a strait body of work, with a solid style, clean and good quality presentation.

11_1FC: Please comment on your connection to your subject matter and the importance of working in your own country/region?

AC: I look people in the eyes. I don’t go in there as a photographer. When I’m inside, I eat with the locals, I play sports with them, and I participate. That is very important for me. The experience is more important than the photographs. I love Rocinha and lived there for 30 days. My work happens to help to make changes, but it is not really my intention. The social change comes as it is supposed to come.

After living in the USA for over 20 years, I feel like an outsider in Brazil. That helps to see things that Brazilians are not seen on their daily lives, things that is right there, in front of every one. Things that only happens in Brazil. As a Brazilian and American citizen, living in both countries, I am able to express my feelings to the subject in a global and natural way. Many Brazilians think that my Rio’s Favela portfolio, as another example, is an apology to the C.V. criminal organization, but instead, it is history that I am documenting, like the Italian mafia of NY.

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Written by Zara Katz

October 15, 2009 at 9:34 am

Photo Fund Winner Update: Andre Cypriano

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Brazilian photographer, Andre Cypriano prefers to photograph the unique and unusual aspects of distinct cultural enclaves. Within his own country he has made a point of looking at the livelihood of the largest favela (slum) in Rio de Janeiro and the brutal prison, Candido Mendes. It was his work photographing the people of the drug-run favela called Rocinha- An Orphan Town that won him the IFDP in 1999.

homepage

Cypriano won the National Geographic “All Roads” photography award in 2005, the New Works award from En Foco N.Y. in 2002, and the World Image Award from PDN in 1992. He has also participated in the Bolsa Vitae de Artes in Sao Paulo and the Caracas Think Tank. Cypriano has published several books of his work, conducted educational workshops and exhibited in Brazil, Europe and the US.

Now located in New York City, Cypriano works as a freelance photographer doing both social documentaries and editorial/fashion photography.

www.andrecypriano.com

Written by Zara Katz

October 14, 2009 at 9:59 am