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Laura Whipple

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September 19, 8:30am • Ziba Auditorium • part of a series on Color

Having switched between banner images of a crumbling wall and lined book spines for Prison Photography, our August ‘14 CreativeMornings/Portland speaker Pete Brook looked for a change in 2011. After learning of artist Dider Falzone’s generative logo project, TOBERND/YOURHILLA, Pete was inspired by the sketches’ relationship to German artists Bernd and Hilla Becher and their acclaimed interest in typologies.

Falzone drafted nine of his typologies, or landscape planes, with the intent that once all are adopted by photography blogs, the “digital manipulation will mirror itself in a systematic auto-generated community.” Pete chose the sketch named “Slot ●●● ●●● ×●●”.

The … logo is a pretty solid walled-in shape. It reminds me off some modern prison cells that have gone beyond the four-wall cuboid (below). I also like the fact it resembles an arrow pointing down to everything else that will pass through the pages of Prison Photography; whatever goes on between the lines and limits of this blog, you can always be reminded ‘You Are Here’.

Raw Meet: Interview With Elizabeth Avedon:

In addition to blogging, our August ‘14 CreativeMornings/Portland speaker Pete Brook has been writing for the technology magazine, WIRED, and their Raw File blog since 2009. By helping “expos[e] the WIRED world one photo at a time”, Pete has published almost 200 articles. Topics range from the Detroit and ruin porn, mausoleum’s spectral light, and photos taken from a stolen Macbook.

The included Q&A features Elizabeth Alvedon, an artist sharing photographer Richard Alvedon’s famous last name who has earned her own reputation curating galleries, influencing multinational advertising campaigns and leveraging design to assist several of the 20th century’s most acclaimed photographers. Despite all the new opportunities arising for photographers due to the internet, publishing deals and exhibitions remain the goal for many. Is this how it should be? Always will be?Avedon: Pressed to gaze into a crystal ball, I would say what is ironic to me is limiting a potential new tool by compromising it to accomplish or mimic what a traditional tool already does.

I believe as these new mediums mature and natural selection takes hold, quality will rise above the static and noise. It will take time to measure what opportunities are really worthwhile and not illusionary. We’ll see what has promise and is useful versus what was empty and vapid. I think goals and values will evolve as we learn what is truly moving our visual language forward.

While serving as a teacher for University Beyonds Bars in 2011, our August ‘14 CreativeMornings/Portland speaker Pete Brook discusses education’s role with the American prison system’s “invisible” rehabilitation efforts.

University Beyond Borders was founded in 2005 and became the country’s first program offer college-level instruction at the Washington State Reformatory after the legislature prevented public funding of prison higher education programs. Almost ten years later, the program offers programing to over 160 prisoners.

To bring to attention things previously unsaid.

To bring attention to things said but unrecorded.

To present a consistent textual and visual editorial voice, to which I am held accountable.

To highlight pre-internet work (digitally unpublished) and give it some exposure.

To joust in the melee of contested meanings in surveillance, fine-art, documentary, amateur, institution, and virtual photographies of prisons and other sites of incarceration.

” -

The manifesto behind Prison Photography, the acclaimed blog written and edited by our August ‘14 CreativeMornings/Portland speaker Pete Brook.

By working between the included objectives, Pete’s blog employs methods to “[conduct] interviews with photographers, …comment on issues of photography, prisons, police, media, civil liberties, …present visual convergences and a short thought/context for viewing,… [and] maybe [include] a quote or two.”

Focusing on Prison Photography:

In late-2011, our August ‘14 CreativeMornings/Portland speaker Pete Brook shared an interview with the New York Times and their photography blog, Lens. And in light of this month’s global theme for CreativeMornings, ”Failure”, Pete remarks as to how imagery may improve cultural awareness regarding the prison-industrial complex:

Well, a lot of people don’t want to talk about prisons. There’s no incentive for anyone in society to look at prisons for the failure that they are. Politicians don’t win if they appear to be soft on crime. And then you have the media, which is after ratings. It wins by stoking up emotions.

… So a lot of people don’t want to talk about prisons but a lot of people might be ushered into the conversation by way of an image.

Jenn Ackerman, "‘A Hand to Hold’"(2008) from the series, Trapped.
Jon Lowenstein. "Undocumented Mexican Immigrants – Tent City" (2009)
Steve Davis, "Untitled #1" (2005) from the series, Captured Youth
Jan Sturmann, "‘Juvenile Prison Sweat Lodge’" (2005)
Adam Shemper, "'In the Wheat Fields, Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, Louisiana’" (2000)

When offering incentives for his 2011 Kickstarter project, Prison Photography on the Road, ourAugust ‘14 CreativeMornings/Portland speaker Pete Brook secured many generous and talented photographers as collaborators when offering their respective prints. Because only one item was available for each of the donation amounts exceeding $200, Pete’s incentives functioned like a “buy it now” auction. In addition, such donors would also receive a postcard, mixtape, the self-published photobook Prison Photography in the Era of Mass Incarceration and have their name published on Pete’s website and in the acknowledgements of the Prison Photography on the Road book.

Photographers included Jenn AckermanAdam AmengualVictor Blue, Steve DavisTim GruberBruce JacksonJon LowensteinFrank McMainsAra OshaganRichard RossJamel ShabazzAdam ShemperJan Sturmann, an incarcerated student of Mikhael SubotzkyStephen TourlentesLori WaselchukMax Whittaker and Sye Williams.In addition to the select photos included, all photos curated by Pete are displayed in an August ‘11 Prison Photography blog post.

Creator Q&A: Pete Brook and Prison Photography:

While crowdsourcing funding needed for his Prison Photography on the Road project in 2011, our August ‘14 CreativeMornings/Portland speaker Pete Brook spoke with Kickstarter as part of their “Creator Q&A” interview series. The conversation touched on how Pete became interested in visual culture’s relationship to activism and social justice, in addition to who the project’s ideal “readers” would be alone with their collective expectations.A special series of photographs was also included.

Towards the end of 2011, our August ‘14 CreativeMornings/Portland speaker Pete Brook successfully funded his Kickstarter campaign, ‘Prison Photography’ on the Road: Stories Behind the Photos, by crowdsourcing over $11,000.

Using his blog, Prison Photography, as a platform, the project proposed Pete traveling 8,000-plus miles across America, interviewing photographers and prison experts who have documented and empathized with our country’s growing relationship with mass incarceration. And through Creative Commons licensing, Pete intended on conducting over 40 audio interviews, publishing each online and allowing the prison reform and photography communities to download the content free of charge.

Other priorities included Pete delivering his lecture, American Prisons: Photography in the Era of Mass Incarceration, to several colleges along with prisons and jails he could access by virtue of the people he would meet while on the road. By the end of the calendar year, Pete would work to connect with non-profit organization would could benefit from the project’s finished material.As Pete said, “The project may last 12 weeks, but the long-tail of content will be used in perpetuity.”

In late-2011, our August ‘14 CreativeMornings/Portland speaker Pete Brook shared an interview, "Photographing "Prisons", with the New York Times’ Lens blog.  And in light of CreativeMornings’ global theme, "Failure", Pete remarks as to how imagery may offer a means to spread awareness:

"Well, a lot of people don’t want to talk about prisons. There’s no incentive for anyone in society to look at prisons for the failure that they are. Politicians don’t win if they appear to be soft on crime. And then you have the media, which is after ratings. It wins by stoking up emotions.

… So a lot of people don’t want to talk about prisons but a lot of people might be ushered into the conversation by way of an image.”

(The included image, “Liz, 21. Chowchilla, Calif. 2003.”, is by Ara Oshagan.)

Between this past January and March, our August ‘14 CreativeMornings/Portland speaker Pete Brook curated an exhibition, "Prison Obscura", at Haverford College’s Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery. He shared a community conversation during its opening.By showcasing imagery from prions rarely seen by the public, “Prison Obscura” asks critical questions like, “Why do tax-paying, prison-funding citizens rarely get the chance to see such images? And what roles do these pictures play for those within the system?” Such a revealing allows visitors to better understand the “cancerous proliferation” of the U.S. prison system and to empathize more closely with the prisoners themselves.