Curator Pete Brook talks about the purpose behind Prison Obscura, a traveling exhibition made possible with support of the John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities and Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery at Haverford College, Haverford, PA.
Prison Obscura opened at Evergreen Gallery this past Thursday to a packed house! Students, faculty, administrators, and community members came together to immerse themselves in this spectacular exhibition. Curator Pete Brook walked the audience through each body of work featured in Prison Obscura, pausing to answer questions and engage with the audience on the topics of mass incarceration, self-representation, and images as tools for activism and change.
Prison Obscura considers this fundamental distortion that characterizes vision and viewing, how we see and don’t see the people we incarcerate, the people we put in boxes. Guiding the viewer through the visual culture of America’s prisons, the exhibit traces the contours of that box, to attempt to make sense of the dominant narratives and stereotypes that somehow justify a U.S. system now locking up people at an unprecedented rate. What do we know of our prisons? Do photographs help us know? Are the images of prisons we see reliable? Are they even useful? How do images relate to the political, social, and economic realities that exist within our prison industrial complex? Do prisons, as closed sites, present any challenges to the claims photography makes as a medium of communication? – Pete Brook