Projects // DOKUMENTART

Over the past five years, I have worked with Gabriela Bulisova and Michelle Repiso to create a series of multimedia documentary projects focused on underreported stories, such as the impact of mass incarceration. These projects embrace the task of documentary storytelling as a technique for raising awareness and engendering change on critically important social issues. At the same time, they aspire to create a unique visual style that expands the reach and impact of our work. We work to develop an intimate and trusting relationship with our subjects — and to adopt a collaborative approach in which they participate directly in decision-making.

In Ukraine, Gabriela Bulisova and I worked in the only penal colony for girls and young women ages 14 to 20 to create “Memoria,” a project composed of diptychs that include both a portrait of the incarcerated individual and a photograph of an object that is of particular importance to each woman. The penal colony in which they reside is a caring, compassionate place, in sharp contrast to its counterparts in the United States.

For Eastern State Penitentiary Museum, which recently opened the nation’s first major museum exhibition on mass incarceration, we created “Six Voices,” an intimate look at the viewpoints of six disparate individuals deeply affected by the criminal justice system. Now on view in Philadelphia, the three-channel video seeks to humanize these individuals, whether they are juveniles, currently in prison, or part of the correctional system.

In Pennsylvania, Gabriela and I worked at State Correctional Institute-Graterford, a maximum-security prison 45 minutes northwest of Philadelphia, with a program called “Songs in the Key of Free.” This innovative program, which restored music instruction for inmates after twenty years without a music program of any kind, brings together outside musicians and talented men to create original songs and performances. We focus on the creative process that gives birth to outstanding original music in multiple styles — and rejuvenates the lives of many men with long-term sentences. Songs in the Key of Free will also begin serving women in a downtown Philadelphia prison in Fall 2017.

In Washington, DC and Philadelphia, PA, we focused on the impact of incarceration on families in a series called “Locked Apart.” While there is increasing awareness of mass incarceration in the United States, where we incarcerate more people per capita than any other nation on the planet, there is less understanding of the toll this is taking on our families — especially families of color. We hope that the short documentaries and galleries of still photographs we have created will shed additional light on this critically important topic and lead to meaningful policy changes.