kristen s. wilkins


Mugshots 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.

I worked with incarcerated women to create images of places they missed, paired with their portraits. This pairing creates a more empathetic vision of the modern felon. I used a large-format camera and Instant film (printed as digital enlargements). This approach isolated the prisoners in a very shallow depth-of-field, revealing a tenderness not found in the mugshots we are familiar with. This isolation and detail adds an aura of mystery, poetry, and sometimes tragedy to the countenances of the inmates.

Each piece in this series includes text either spoken or written by the woman pictured. Some were heart-breakingly honest, their requests linked to family tragedy or their crimes. Others reveal a sense of levity: despite their situation, they are trying to move on with their lives.

Using Format