An Intimate Look at Solitary Confinement and Police Interrogations
By Anna Overstrom-Coleman
Imagine that you are an ordinary citizen brought against your will to a police interrogation room. You are not an experienced criminal but you don’t stand a chance at receiving a fair trial. Nor do you have the connections or wealth required to go up against the state’s judicial system.
Is it your first time sitting down face to face with your interrogators? How many hours will pass until you are released? What is at stake for you—losing your family? Your freedom? Or is the notion of justice and truth meaningless here, in this sparsely decorated room with tattered wallpaper?
From 2005 until 2012, Moving Walls photographer Donald Weber documented the interiors and inner workings of Ukrainian police stations and recreates them for visitors at this year’s pop-up photography festival, Photoville, in Brooklyn Bridge Park. With support from the Open Society Documentary Photography Project and VII Photo Agency, Weber transforms a shipping container into the exhibition Interrogations, evoking the emotionally charged moments before, during, and after a confession. Combining his photographs with audio recordings collected during his travels, Weber creates a sensory exhibit that allow visitors to experience for themselves the mechanisms of power and control behind this police practice.
Similarly, in Photo Requests from Solitary, Open Society grantee Laurie Jo Reynolds, Soros Justice Fellow Jean Casella of Solitary Watch, and Jeanine Olsen from Parsons the New School for Design ask viewers to imagine the thoughts of people harmed by the justice system, in this case men living in solitary confinement in U.S. prisons. Where would your mind wander if you were forced to spend up to 23 hours a day, for months or even years, alone, in a 7-x-10-foot cell? What image would you like to see?
Reynolds and fellow advocates of Tamms Year Ten first asked these questions of men serving time in isolation in Tamms super-max prison in Illinois. Photographers took or created images based on these requests, which were then used as part of an advocacy campaign to shut down the prison. Tamms eventually closed its doors in January 2013, and this exhibit marks the launch of the project’s New York campaign. Visitors to Photoville will have the chance to view the collaborative images from Illinois, meet with survivors of solitary confinement and their family members, and learn how to get involved locally.
We invite you to join us at Photoville (September 19–29) and immerse yourself in these experiential exhibitions and panel discussions that challenge our assumptions of justice.
Photoville Talk Area, storefront of One Brooklyn Bridge Park, 360 Furman Street, Brooklyn, New York
- Saturday, September 21, 4:50–5:50 p.m.: Interrogations, Donald Weber + VII Photo Agency
- Sunday, September 22, 4:40–6:10 p.m.: Photo Requests from Solitary, moderated by Jean Casella, Solitary Watch
For a full schedule of festival exhibitions, workshops, and talks please visit the Photoville website.