Prison Photography as Dialogue

Serena Fusco


In this essay, I consider prison photography, in broad terms, as a rhetorical and social network that potentially or actually brings together agents from both sides of the prison walls. I attempt to discuss prison photography as a practice that exposes the stark border separating the inside and outside of prisons, while creating communication channels attempting to bridge such divide. If, on the one hand, photographic initiatives centered on prisons, and the increased visibility they entail, contribute to blur the divide between inside and outside, on the other hand, photography retains and amplifies the stark quality of this divide – both because of the inescapable realism and documentary value of photographic images and because photographic images make present, and materialize, the starkly uneven distribution of the technological means for crafting them. Because of its fluid, yet inescapably asymmetrical nature, prison photography requires, and simultaneously fosters, a nuanced reflection on what separates the world within prison walls from the world without.

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