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HomeContentsThemes > Prisons


Bristol City and County Goal, Great Britain
594.01   Bristol City and County Goal, Great Britain (1853)
594.02   Minutes of Evidence taken before the Select Committee on Prison Discipline - J.A. Gardner, Bristol Goal (1863)
594.03   Prison records and ledgers
Prison inmates
594.04   Death Row Prisoners Hanged in Connecticut 1894-1912
594.05   Walker Evans: Prison work gang
594.06   Danny Lyon: Conversations with the Dead (1971)
594.07   David Dare Parker: Security Prison 21 (S-21)
Internment camps
594.08   Internment camps in the USA during the Second World War
594.09   Concluding remarks on prisons
This theme includes example sections and will be revised and added to as we proceed. Suggestions for additions, improvements and the correction of factual errors are always appreciated. 
Status: Collect > Document > Analyse > Improve
Bristol City and County Goal, Great Britain 
594.01   Documentary >  Bristol City and County Goal, Great Britain (1853) 
The realization of the application of photography to taking "likenesses" of criminals to provide a long term records that could be share with other institutions to track down re-offenders was appreciated in Great Britain as an article in Law and Crime (April, 1853) stated:
An Improvement in the Cleans for the Detection of Crime has been introduced by Mr. Gardener, governor of the Bristol City and County Gaol. The descriptions in the "Hue and Cry," &c., of notorious prisoners in custody, with the view of learning their antecedents, &c., having been found most defective in practice, Mr. Gardener has introduced the system of taking multiplied copies of daguerreotype likenesses of notorious offenders in custody, which, with written descriptions of the prisoners, are forwarded to the principal gaols and police-stations in the kingdom. As daguerreotype likenesses of the most accurate character can be now taken on paper, the only expense is the trifling cost of the apparatus. The first likenesses taken in the gaol by this process were those of a notorious burglar, an utterer of forged Bank of England notes, and a female criminal suspected of having been long "wanted" in other parts of the kingdom, and they were despatched to various gaols, &c., in the northern and midland districts.[1]
594.02   Documentary >  Minutes of Evidence taken before the Select Committee on Prison Discipline - J.A. Gardner, Bristol Goal (1863) 
When James Anthony Gardner, Esq., governor of the Bristol City and County Goal in Great Britain, was examined on 24th April 1863 by the Select Committee on Prison Discipline he was one of the first to take portraits of prisoners and the following interchange took place:
3582. Chairman.] Are you aware of the difficulty which very often arises in law courts in identifying a previously convicted prisoner?
I am.
3583. Have you ever considered, or have you ever adopted, any scheme by which previously convicted prisoners may be more completely identified ?
I introduced some years ago (indeed I was the first who introduced them) the daguerreotype portraits of the prisoners, and from having succeeded in one or two cases, we introduced it more freely; we now take a large number of portraits, and I think it would be very difficult for a man to escape detection in our gaol. I take a stereoscopic picture, instead of a plain portrait, and I request the parties to whom I send it to put it into the stereoscope; they have a better opportunity of seeing the man before them standing out in relief.
3584. Do you take a portrait of every prisoner who is committed to your gaol?
We do not. I do it myself, and I have no time to take so many. We merely take portraits of those whom we do not know railway thieves, and strangers to the city, who are taken up for picking pockets at the railway stations and in railway carriages.
3585. Have you found the practical advantages of that system?
Yes, I have found out a great many by that means. On one occasion I recollect an officer of mine being offered a large sum of money by the wife of a prisoner to release him. He was offered 100l. This was reported to me; and I thought that as the man had only three months more to serve, he certainly must be wanting somewhere else. I took his portrait directly, and sent it round to perhaps 40 or 50 different gaols, and he was recognised at last at Dover. I had an order from the Secretary of State to remove him, instead of discharging him. I removed him on a Friday, and on the following Friday he was sentenced to 15 years' transportation for highway robbery.
3586. Have you had other instances of the same sort?
Yes, many.
3587. Did the judge who presided at the trial make any comment upon that?
I do not know. I was not there at the time; but it was entirely through the portrait that he was recognised.
3588. Are you of opinion that if the system were more extensively carried out, of taking photographic portraits of all the different prisoners in the different prisons, and if communication took place between the governors of the different gaols, that would lead to the identification of a vast number of previously convicted prisoners ?
Yes; and, if it was well carried out, I think it would be almost impossible for a man to escape.
3589. Would there be any practical difficulty in carrying it out?
None whatever.
3590. Will you put in evidence a return of the form which you use in forwarding the photograph of a prisoner?
Yes. This was the form (producing the same) which I introduced at the time when I commenced the system of taking photographs of the prisoners. I was the first who introduced it, and I have got it introduced into perhaps 20 or 25 gaols, and they all adopt this plan. A portrait is the best part of a man's description; and if it is well taken, and particularly one this size, it is almost impossible to mistake the features of the man.
3591. Earl of Dudley.] You say that there is no difficulty about taking the photographs of the men. I presume you mean that, practically, they have not refused to let them be taken?
They have not. But I have taken them walking, unknown to them.
3592. A prisoner, by closing his eyes and distorting his features, and moving during the seconds of time that the portrait is being taken, would destroy the likeness, would he not?
I have never met with but one who did that, and I took that man's portrait when he was walking. In order to try the experiment, I took out one of my domestic servants into the garden, who was placed at a certain point of the path where it was not possible to see the camera, and at a long distance. I found after some time that I succeeded very well; and I told the officer to come to me with the man; the moment he came there I pulled out the slide, and succeeded in a second; it was quite good enough to catch the man by.
3593. Supposing there is any opposition to your doing it, you have the means of carrying it out?
Yes. I could take a man through a small aperture; I do not think there would be very much difficulty in getting him to sit. You may now and then meet with a man like the one I have referred to, but you might catch an opportunity, or you might build a place for the purpose.
3594. Chairman.] Do the prisoners themselves dread being photographed?
They have frequently said to me, " I know what you are at; I have been in gaol; I will tell you all about it"; and I have told them that they need not tell me, as it might be used against them; and upon that I have taken the portrait.
3595. Is not the cost of the apparatus very trifling?
It is a very trifling sum; but it would be quite as well to have a good one.[2]
594.03   Documentary >  Prison records and ledgers 
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Prison inmates 
594.04   Documentary >  Death Row Prisoners Hanged in Connecticut 1894-1912 
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Slideshow (Be patient as this has 29 slides to load.) 
From an album of 22 men executed by the State of Connecticut between December 18, 1894 and March 29, 1912 at the Connecticut State Prison, Wethersfield. The album was created by correctional officer James E. Officer and was presented to correctional officer "M. J. Redding". Each page contains a convict portrait and details of their crime.[3] 
594.05   Documentary >  Walker Evans: Prison work gang 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
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In around 1935 Walker Evans took a number of photographs of a prison work gang. 
594.06   Documentary >  Danny Lyon: Conversations with the Dead (1971) 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
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Danny Lyon has a rich body of work going back to the 1960s with his masterful documentary The Bikeriders[4] which combined interviews with the participants in their own words along with the photographs. The connection between the text and the photographs was exemplified by earlier books such as Dorothea Lange's photographs and the writing of Paul Schuster Taylor in An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion[5] (1939). In Conversations with the Dead[6] Danny Lyon used interviews and stories writen by prison inmates along with his photographs. There was no separation here between the visual and textual and each supported the other. 
594.07   Documentary >  David Dare Parker: Security Prison 21 (S-21) 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
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Tuol Sleng means "Hill of the Poisonous Trees" or "Strychnine Hill" From 1975 to 1979, an estimated 17,000 people were imprisoned at Tuol Sleng in Cambodia (some estimates suggest a number as high as 20,000, although the real number is unknown).[7] At any one time, the prison held between 1,000-1,500 prisoners. They were repeatedly tortured and coerced into naming family members and close associates, who were in turn arrested, tortured and killed. In the early months of S-21's existence, most of the victims were from the previous Lon Nol regime and included soldiers, government officials, as well as academics, doctors, teachers, students, factory workers, monks, engineers, etc. Later, the party leadership's paranoia turned on its own ranks and purges throughout the country saw thousands of party activists and their families brought to Tuol Sleng and murdered.[8] 
Internment camps 
594.08   Documentary >  Internment camps in the USA during the Second World War 
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Under pressure from public outcry following the Pearl Harbour attack on 7 December 1941 on February 19th 1942 President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 by which 120,000 people of Japanese descent living in the US were interned in camps. The controversy over this action still continues as more than two thirds of those interned were US citizens and had never shown any signs of disloyalty.
  • Hansel Mieth and her husband Otto Hagel were working for LIFE magazine when they were assigned to photograph the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming during the Second World War where more than 10,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans were being unconstitutionally incarcerated. Bill Manbo (1908-1992) documented the Heart Mountain camp in colour using Kodachrome.
  • Ansel Adams photographed Japanese internment camp at Manzanar (California).
  • Dorothea Lange photographed an Japanese internment camp and her photographs were censored by the U.S. Army and not published until many years later.
In December 1944 Public Proclamation number 21 allowed internees to return to their homes from January 1945 onwards. The photographs of the camps were not published during the war and it was not until the 1990s that it became politically acceptable to publish them. 
594.09   Documentary >  Concluding remarks on prisons 
Contemporary photographic practise on prisons comes from a vast range of perspectives.[9] In the "Windows from Prison" series prisoners who were convicted as juveniles in the Washington, DC area and sent to adult prisons were asked “If you could have window in your cell, what place from your past would it look out to?” and then photographs were taken of the locatin and these along with the prisoners writings were displayed on 12x9ft banners in a public space.[10] With projects like this photography is a part of an activist discourse.
Wrongfully conficted individuals are alarmingly common with the prison system and in the United States the "Innocence Project", founded in 1992 by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, has exonerated hundreds of people.[11] The project states that the common causes for the failure of the American justice system include Eyewitness Misidentification, Unvalidated or Improper Forensic Science, False Confessions / Admissions, Government Misconduct, Informants or Snitches and Bad Lawyering. Photographer and typologist Taryn Simon photographed those who served prison time for violent crimes they didn't commit. Each was photographed at a location that had:
"particular significance to their illegitimate conviction: the scene of misidentification, the scene of arrest, the scene of the crime or the scene of the alibi. All of these locations hold contradictory meanings for the subjects. The scene of arrest marks the starting point of a reality based in fiction. The scene of the crime is at once arbitrary and crucial: this place, to which they have never been, changed their lives forever. In these photographs Simon confronts photography's ability to blur truth and fiction-an ambiguity that can have severe, even lethal consequences."[12]
Whilst historically most photography of prisons has been the documentation of the buildings and incarcerated individuals it is now far more complex. 

  1. Λ April, 1853, Law and Crime, p. 87 
  2. Λ The Sessional Papers Printed by Order of The House of Lords, Session 1863, 26 & 27 Victoria, vol. XXXIII, Minutes of Evidence taken before the Select Committee on Prison Discipline, 24th April 1863, Paragraphs: 3582-3595 
  3. Λ Ebay Item number: 280802431876, Sold: Jan 16, 2012, Seller: walnutts 
  4. Λ Danny Lyon,1968, The Bikeriders, (New York and London: The Macmillan Company and Collier-Macmillan Limited) 
  5. Λ Dorothea Lange & Paul Schuster Taylor, 1939, An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion, (New York: Reynald Hitchcock) 
  6. Λ Danny Lyon, 1971, Conversations with the Dead - Photographs of Prison Life with the Letters and Drawings of Billy McCune, (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston) 
  7. Λ David Chandler, 1999, Voices from S-21. Terror and history inside Pol Pot's secret prison, University of California Press); Nic Dunlop, 2006, The Lost Executioner: A Story of the Khmer Rouge, (Walker & Company)
    Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum - Wikipedia
    (Accessed: 28 August 2013) 
  8. Λ The photographs included here are © David Dare Parker (used with permission) 
  9. Λ Prison Photography - Pete Brook
    For an extensive and detailed examination of the American prison system.
    If a camera is within prison walls we should always be asking; How did it get there? What are/were the motives? What are the responses? What social and political powers are at play in a photograph’s manufacture? And, how is knowledge, related to those powers, constructed?
    (Accessed: 9 April 2014) 
  10. Λ Windows from Prison / George Mason University
    (Accessed: 9 April 2014) 
  11. Λ Innocence Project
    On the website on 9 April 2014 it displayed that it had exonerated 316 individuals.
    (Accessed: 9 April 2014) 
  12. Λ Taryn Simon: The Innocents
    (Accessed: 9 April 2014)
    See also - Peter Neufeld; Barry Scheck & Taryn Simon, 2008, The Innocents, (Umbrage Editions


HomeContents > Further research

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General reading 
Emdur, Alyse, 2013, Prison Landscapes, (London: Four Corners Books) isbn-10: 0956192866 isbn-13: 978-0956192868 [Δ
Manbo, Bill & Muller, Eric L. (ed.), 2012, Colors of Confinement: Rare Kodachrome Photographs of Japanese American Incarceration in World War II, (The University of North Carolina Press) isbn-10: 0807835730 isbn-13: 978-0807835739 [Δ
Mayhew, Henry & Binny, Joseph, 1862, The Criminal Prisons of London, (London: Griffin, Bohn and Company) [Δ
Readings on, or by, individual photographers 
Ansel Adams 
Adams, Ansel, 1944, Born free and equal, photographs of the loyal Japanese-Americans at Manzanar Relocation Center, Inyo County, California, (New York: U.S. Camera) [Δ
Robinson, Gerald, 2002, Elusive Truth: Four Photographers at Manzanar, (Carl Mautz) isbn-10: 1887694242 [Ansel Adams, Clem Albers, Dorothea Lange and Toyo Miyatake] [Δ
Clem Albers 
Robinson, Gerald, 2002, Elusive Truth: Four Photographers at Manzanar, (Carl Mautz) isbn-10: 1887694242 [Ansel Adams, Clem Albers, Dorothea Lange and Toyo Miyatake] [Δ
Dorothea Lange 
Gordon, Linda & Okihiro, Gary Y. (eds.), 2006, Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment, (W. W. Norton & Company) isbn-10: 039306073X isbn-13: 978-0393060737 [Δ
Robinson, Gerald, 2002, Elusive Truth: Four Photographers at Manzanar, (Carl Mautz) isbn-10: 1887694242 [Ansel Adams, Clem Albers, Dorothea Lange and Toyo Miyatake] [Δ
Danny Lyon 
Lyon, Danny, 1971, Conversations with the Dead - Photographs of Prison Life with the Letters and Drawings of Billy McCune, (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston) [Δ
Toyo Miyatake 
Robinson, Gerald, 2002, Elusive Truth: Four Photographers at Manzanar, (Carl Mautz) isbn-10: 1887694242 [Ansel Adams, Clem Albers, Dorothea Lange and Toyo Miyatake] [Δ
Donovan Wylie 
Wylie, Donovan, 2004, Donovan Wylie: The Maze, (Granta) isbn-10: 1862076847 isbn-13: 978-1862076846 [Text by Louise Purbrick] [Δ
Wylie, Donovan, 2009, Donovan Wylie: Maze, (Steidl; Har/Pap edition) isbn-10: 3865219071 isbn-13: 978-3865219077 [Δ
If you feel this list is missing a significant book or article please let me know - Alan - 

HomeContentsPhotographers > Photographers worth investigating

Ansel Adams  (1902-1984) • Clem Albers  (check) • Dorothea Lange  (1895-1965) • Danny Lyon  (1942-) • Toyo Miyatake  (1895-1979) • David Dare Parker • Donovan Wylie  (1971-)
HomeThemesDocumentaryCrime and punishment > Prisons 
A wider gaze

HomeVisual indexes > Prisons

Please submit suggestions for Visual Indexes to enhance this theme.
Alan -

ThumbnailAldolarius Humphrey Boyd: Convict portraits, Port Arthur 
ThumbnailAnsel Adams: Manzanar Relocation Center 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailDanny Lyon: Conversations with the Dead 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailDanny Lyon: The Line 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailWalker Evans: Prison work gang 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailDocumentary: Crime: Australian mugshots 
ThumbnailDocumentary: Crime: Prisoners brought before the North Shields Police Court between 1902 and 1916 
ThumbnailDocumentary: Crime: Punishment: Death Row Prisoners Hanged in Connecticut 1894-1912 
ThumbnailDocumentary: Crime: Punishment: Prison records and ledgers 
ThumbnailDocumentary: Crime: Punishment: Prisoners 
ThumbnailDocumentary: Crime: Punishment: Prisons 
ThumbnailThomas A. Larcom photographs collection, 1857-1866 [Mountjoy Prison] 
ThumbnailThomas Byrnes: Professional Criminals of America 
ThumbnailWar: American Civil War (1861-1865): Prisons and prisoners 
ThumbnailWar: Second World War (1939-1945): Internment camps 
ThumbnailExecution of Ruth Synder 
Refreshed: 16 January 2015, 06:08
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