Windows from Prison
For the Project’s Website: Windows From Prison
When individuals from Washington, DC are placed in the federal penitentiary system they can be sent to any prison across the country (potentially thousands of miles away from family or friends). Windows From Prison* utilizes photography as a way to bridge this distance while creating space and humanistic entry points for students, faculty, NGO’s, family members of incarcerated individuals, former prisoners, and policy makers to engage with the sources, impacts, and alternatives to mass incarceration.
“If you could have window in your cell, what place from your past would it look out to?” This question is asked to individuals who are from Washington, DC area but sent to prisons across the country. The corresponding photo requests are then fulfilled by students at George Mason University and Duke Ellington High School and mailed back to the incarcerated participants.
In spring 2014 the images and corresponding prisoner’s writing were printed on 12x9 ft banners. These will be displayed on campus in GMU’s central public square. The banners will be placed in a circular design so that that the photos create and carve out a real and symbolic space for a multidisciplinary group of GMU scholars, policy/justice activists, artists, and community members. The public exhibition will include an expansive set of public programs, events, debates, and brainstorming sessions. GMU journalism students will be on hand for every event to document and interview those participating. At the end of the exhibit a newspaper will be designed and written by students including information on the project, images/text from the photo exchange and public events, and various editorials written by GMU students and faculty. The banners will then be separated and placed in different locations across the region. Each will have a corresponding newspaper box positioned next to it.
In 2014, from April 7th-21st, the images and corresponding prisoner’s writing were printed on 12x9 ft banners. These were then displayed on campus in GMU’s central public square (in the grassy area between the Fenwick Library and Sub 1). The banners were placed in a circular design so that that the photos created and carved out a real and symbolic space for a multidisciplinary group of GMU scholars, policy/justice activists, artists, and community members. The public exhibition included an expansive set of public programs, events, debates, and brainstorming sessions (info below).
Mirroring the project’s ethos, the exhibit didn’t seek to impose information upon a community, but to create avenues and space for local knowledge to emerge, complicate, and activate the project’s artistic and civic potential. The exhibit included an extensive set of public events, workshops, film screenings and community forums. Click here for additional images, audio, and additional information.
*The project was awarded a 2013 Photowings/Ashoka Foundation Insight project grant and is a partnership with Free Minds DC, George Mason University’s School of the Arts, GMU’s VA Writing Project, The Washington Project for the Arts, and Duke Ellington High School.