Being a student at Saint Joseph’s University has given me incredible opportunities. For instance, in my first semester of sophomore year, I decided to take a class named “Social Media & Community Engagement”. This wasn’t your typical college class, instead, it was a class for the Beautiful Social Research Collaborative where you as a student were a digital consultant for a specific community partner. During this semester my community partner was Stacey Torrance, a previously incarcerated individual who had spent nearly 30 years in prison. Through collaboration, my BSocial group and I worked with Stacey to create the Free Mind Entrepreneur Network- a non-profit that brings awareness to the importance of hiring previously incarcerated individuals, highlights the hardships of re-entry, and supports entrepreneurship.
Working with Stacey opened my eyes to the unjust and biased criminal justice system within the United States and the many disparities that this system has when it comes to people of color. Since then, I have been very passionate about this issue and I’ve educated myself so that I could help bring awareness to it.
I have worked with Stacey three times and I’m still currently working as a consultant for the Free Mind Network. But, outside of this network, I’ve done many other things revolving around these issues. In my Civic Media class, I came up with a media campaign that targeted employers to hire previously incarcerated individuals by partnering with sites like LinkedIn or Indeed. In my Music Protest & Social Justice class, I came up with a podcast episode that connected a song with these issues to then talk about them more in-depth. In my Inside-Out class, I was able to attend the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center (PICC) to have a class alongside fifteen incarcerated individuals and talk about how race, media, and citizenship shape our perceptions of prison in the US. And lastly, in my Crime, Justice and Media Class I learned a lot about how media shapes the policies within our country. In this class, I also had the opportunity to visit SCI Phoenix- a maximum security prison to meet around six guys who had been incarcerated for more than twenty years.
When I visited SCI Phoenix, I met incredible people who were in a terrible situation. People who have been incarcerated for most of their lives. Innocent people. People who made a mistake. People who have learned and grown to become a better version of themselves. I met incredible men who have death-by-incarceration sentences and might die in prison.
As I mentioned before, I currently still work with Stacey Torrance. Stacey was incarcerated at only 14 years old and he was given a death by incarceration sentence. Thankfully it was ruled unconstitutional for minors to be sentenced to life without parole and Stacey was able to come home. Unfortunately, most of the men I met were incarcerated and sentenced around when they were 22-25 years old and this bothered me. It bothered me because I think about the life they could have had and could still have outside of prison. It bothered me because they were given death by incarceration sentences at such a young age.
I want to honor the people I met and the thousands of other people who are incarcerated in a country that hardly believes in second chances. This is why I want to create a photo essay that highlights previously incarcerated individuals and their current lives. I want to be able to show that people deserve a second chance. I want to switch the narrative and have a series of photos that showcase people in a positive light; with their families, working their jobs, running their businesses, being advocates for their communities, etc. Ultimately to show their growth post-prison release.
For this photo essay, I will be the creative director. I will be taking the pictures myself with a professional camera. Also, in this series, I will be asking people, “What would you want the world to know about you?” and I will be including personal stories that resonate with the project to make sure I’m portraying people exactly how they would want to be portrayed. The photo essay will be presented similar to a book at the end of the project.
I envision taking pictures of 4-5 different people, to have around 15-25 pictures at the end of the project.
Examples of Photo Essays:
- Jeffrey Stockbridge Instagram
- Kensington Blues Book
- Kensington Blues
- “Kensington Blues is a fine-art photography book documenting the those affected by drug addiction and prostitution along Kensington Avenue in North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Ninety-one large-format color photographs paired with audio transcripts and handwritten journal entries, created over a period of 5 years, tell the personal stories of those fighting to survive their addiction and the neighborhood”.
- LORI WASELCHUK: GRACE BEFORE DYING
- “A life sentence in Louisiana means life. More than 85% of the 5,100 inmates imprisoned at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola are expected to die there. Until the hospice program was created in 1998, prisoners died mostly alone in the prison hospital. Their bodies were buried in shoddy boxes in numbered graves at the prison cemetery. Grace Before Dying charts the extraordinary breakthrough in humanity that has helped transform one of the most dangerous maximum security prisons in the United States, Louisiana’s notorious Angola prison, into one of the least violent. Join Lori as she discusses this revelatory work”.
My project will be similar to these two examples because it requires having the capability of reaching the audience in a way that will start to humanize others. Another similarity is how raw and real these projects are. I want my project to showcase the realities of people’s lives and I want to make sure that I do that in the best way possible.
As I mentioned before I will be using a professional camera to take pictures. I will also be using Photoshop, Illustrator, and Lightroom to do all of the editing. At the end of the project, I would like to print a hard copy of the book so I will have to research the best ways to print a photo essay.
My primary audience is the general public. This is because things like being a previously incarcerated individual have a lot of stigma behind it. I want the general public to look at my project and understand that people in our society deserve a second chance. My secondary public would be policymakers. At the end of the day, politicians and policymakers are the people behind passing or rejecting certain policies and I think it’s really important for them to see projects like this one.
During my time in my digital field and methods class, I was able to learn and master how to use a professional camera. I also learned how to edit pictures by using Adobe products like Lightroom and Photoshop. Here is an example of the pictures I took with the camera: Instagram Portfolio.
In addition to photography and photo editing, in my Visual Desing class, I had experience using Adobe InDesign to create some sort of portfolio magazine: COM 202 Portfolio
Throughout my time at Saint Joseph’s and the many projects I have completed surrounding these issues I have done extensive research that will be beneficial to my project as a whole. Some of the research I’ve done includes interviews with previously incarcerated individuals, business owners with fair and ethical practices, and looking at statistics.
I think the biggest challenge when it comes to this project will be printing the book.
This is an approximate timeline.
- 4th-6th Week
- Contact Stacey and send the proposal to people who are interested in participating
- 7th-9th Week
- Coordinate interviews and Photoshop sessions
- 9th-11th Week
- Edit pictures + Edit book
- 11th-14th Week
- Print Book