"Don't be like I was you can be better"
March 3, 2014 11:42 AM   Subscribe

This has been going around photography circles for the past week or so, and I'm disappointed to have learned about it only after the exhibit closed. I definitely would have driven up to Maine to see it in person. It's compelling work.
posted by cribcage at 11:45 AM on March 3, 2014

Really gripping--that's a great project. Thanks for posting.

And all of those guys should get credit towards their jail time for their excellent penmanship.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:48 AM on March 3, 2014

That is a great exhibit; thanks. And I'm with Admiral Haddock; in my previous job incarnation I answered letters from inmates and I have to say they had the neatest handwriting I've ever seen.
posted by mlle valentine at 12:42 PM on March 3, 2014

I had a chance to meet a few of these guys - the Maine State Prison has a hospice program run by inmates, and three of the men pictured (Brandon, Robert, and Wesley) are part of that group. I visited the prison to work on a radio show about the program and we ended up talking to Robert at length (part 1) (part 2). I was really impressed by how warm and welcoming these inmates were, and also by the depth of their insight about caregiving. It was also easy to see that they'd used the time they were serving to develop a real clarity about who they wanted to be.
posted by confabulous at 1:34 PM on March 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Really powerful, thanks. It reminds me of a few visits I made to a prison as part of a school project. My partner on the project and I were given practically total (escorted) access-- talking to inmates and corrections officers in cell blocks, individual cells, the psychiatric and protective custody pods, prison court, strip searching, all of it.

Even though my visits were only a few hours at a time, spaced out over a couple of months, I couldn't wait to get the hell out every time I was there. Not because it was scary--nobody threatened us or anything--but because it was just heartbreaking to see the wasted lives, and maddening to experience the confinement and hyper-regulation. I met more than a few guys who expressed the same regrets these letters do: that they made stupid decisions when they were young, and that they would do things a lot differently if they could go back.

We see and hear a lot about the unrepentant hardened criminals in prison, and I definitely saw those too, but the guys who would have otherwise been productive and talented if they hadn't fucked up... it was just really hard to witness.
posted by Rykey at 2:37 PM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Did anybody transcribe these? While I can imagine them being really powerful if printed life sized, they're too hard for me to read to get through them now.
posted by klangklangston at 2:55 PM on March 3, 2014

Thank you for posting this--I would never have seen it otherwise.

(I would also like a link to a transcription if one's available.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:32 PM on March 3, 2014

Here's a transcription.
posted by beryllium at 7:09 AM on March 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

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