Supplication

2011-2013, 8"x10" and 4"x5" photographs and text

Supplication is a series of portraits and landscapes created in collaboration with incarcerated women in the Montana State Penitentiary. The portraits act as visual contradictions to the expected mug shots, while the use of the prisoner’s text and the creation of a matching landscape add complexity to our expectations of the Criminal.

This project was my personal response to the ubiquitous presence of mug shoots in the local paper. These photographs are meant to document a transgressor, but act to criminalize individuals and strip them of identity and sympathy; the frequency of these images can cause other members of the same community to feel unsafe and untrusting of strangers. By going into the prison and making sympathetic portraits, I wanted to see and share the human side of the transgressor. I also wanted to give back to them for showing me this honesty by creating images of places they missed, which I will return to them. Within the prison, these women create new homes, new communities, and they relearn appropriate behavior in those spaces, so when they are released, they can make better choices.

The dialogue between these two images challenges use to ask ourselves, what would we miss the most? I was asked to photograph houses from important times in their life, sunrises, sunsets, mountains, kittens, graves, stores, etc.

Replicating early 20th century portraits, I used a large-format camera and Instant film. It isolates the prisoners in a very shallow depth-of-field and reveals realistic detail. This isolation and detail adds an aura of mystery, poetry, and sometimes tragedy to the countenances of the inmates.

Copyright © Kristen S. Wilkins, 2018. All rights reserved.
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