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A Powerful Journey Through San Quentin, California’s Oldest And Most Notorious Prison

Unknown (American, 20th century). Soul Day 8-9-76, from the San Quentin State Prison Archive, 1976, printed 2018. Inkjet print.

Unknown (American, 20th century). Mother’s Day 5-9-76, from the San Quentin State Prison Archive, 1976, printed 2018. Inkjet print. 

In 2011, visual artist Nigel Poor entered San Quentin, the oldest, most notorious prison in California. Prior inmates include Charles Manson, Sirhan Sirhan, Black Panther Party members Eldridge Cleaver and George Jackson, and Stanley “Tookie” Williams, co-founder of the Crips street gang and one of the many inmates executed in the prison death chamber.

The image of San Quentin looms large in popular culture through film, television, music, and literature dating back to John Steinbeck’s 1937 novel, Of Mice and Men — creating fictional, often misinformed narratives that cast a long shadow over the true stories of those inside the prison walls.

Unlike those inside San Quentin, Poor entered of her own volition in 2011 as a volunteer teacher for the Prison University Project, teaching the history of photography to inmates. Inside the prison, Poor discovered an astounding wealth of stories that were waiting to be told, stories that became the basis for The San Quentin Project: Nigel Poor and the Men of San Quentin State Prison, currently on view at the Berkeley Art Museum Pacific Film Archive through November 19, 2019.

In The San Quentin Project, Poor counters fiction with fact through a series of profound personal histories shared in photographs, visual documents, and Ear Hustle, an acclaimed podcast co-produced with Earlonne Woods. Originally designed to run exclusively on the San Quentin institutional channel, Ear Hustle became a platform for inmates to tell their story in their own words. Since it began, it has been broadcast beyond their wildest dreams, airing throughout the entire California prison system as well as 114 UK prisons.

Here Poor and Woods share their experiences creating an archive of San Quentin’s history, past and present.

War Veterans Who Have Found Peace and Healing in Vietnam

On July 21, 1954, Vietnam was split, the fractured nation a pawn of the Cold War. The communist North and the capitalist South became pitted against each other in a twenty-year war that would destroy not only the Vietnamese people and their land but countless foreign soldiers sent to fight a brutal proxy war.

The United States entered into the conflict in 1964 after the suspicious Gulf of Tonkin incident, and for the next nine years drafted American men, disproportionately from working class, Black, and Latinx backgrounds, to fight a war they could never win.

That did not stop the U.S. military from engaging in some of the most heinous acts of war, from the My Lai Massacre in 1968, wherein their gang raped women, mutilated children as young as 12, and slaughtered some 504 innocent villagers uninvolved in the conflict.

Reportage of the war was as brutal as the acts themselves, fomenting a righteous ant0war favor stateside. Public sentiment split the nation in half, with warmongers deriding anti-war protesters and eventually spurring on the National Guard shooting that left four U.S. students dead during at Kent State in Ohio in 1971.

These cinematic photographs will transport you to magical scenes of rural Asia

©Rarindra Prakarsa

Rarindra Prakarsa captures scenes of rural life in lush, cinematic photographs characterized by dense atmospheres and skillful use of volumetric light.

Although documentary in concept, Prakarsa’s photographs feel meticulously staged, almost like a painting. Combining natural and artificial light sources, ordinary everyday situations like children playing in the water or an old man smoking a pipe look through his lens like these majestic, almost surreal occurrences.

The Jakarta-born artist took up photography as a graphic art major and got his first gigs working as a graphic designer for local newspapers. Converging the two disciplines, Prakarsa’s body of work has always denoted a distinctive knack for composition and a striking use of color.

Prakarsa gave us an insight behind his workflow and shared with us some advice for capturing his trademark cinematic light beams while shooting outdoors.

Gavin Watson Looks Back on His Childhood as a British Skinhead

Long before the UK skinhead scene was co-opted by right-wing movements it was a culture created by the working class looking to forge a connection across the races. If first emerged on the streets of London in 1969 in response to the self-indulgent pretensions of bourgeois hippiedom. Forged in the council estates and East End slums, skinhead culture combined the style and sound of the Windrush generation with the back-to-basics aesthetics of post-war Britain. It was reborn again in the late 1970s and 80s, just as photographer Gavin Watson came of age.

By the time Watson left school at age 16, he had shot some 10,000 pictures of his friends in High Wycombe, documenting the poignant beauty of their daily lives, finding inspiration and solace in the space where rebellion, style, and self-actualization meet. In Oh What Fun We Had! (Damiani), Watson delves into his archive for a fresh look at a vastly misunderstood and misrepresented culture before the right-wing infiltrated it and spread disinformation through the mainstream media.

Beginning in 1994, with the publication of his first book skins, Watson has been on a mission to reclaim his roots and culture from those who have disrespected it. Here he shares his experiences and insights into the truth about skinhead culture — a history that can only be told by an insider.

Call for entries: Feature Shoot’s 5th annual Emerging Photography Awards!

Feature Shoot Emerging Photography Awards

Our international photography competition for up-and-coming image makers is back! All photographers not currently represented by a gallery or photographers’ agent are invited to apply. This year we will be awarding 30 impressive photographers with an exhibition at the world-renowned Aperture Gallery in Chelsea, New York City. Additionally, a US$3000 cash prize is up for grabs, as well as global exposure opportunities.

Chronicling the stories of gun violence survivors in the U.S

Aurora, Colorado, 2010. Standing with a group of friends outside of her high school, Karina became the unintended victim of a drive-by shooting fueled by gang revenge. She was 16. ©Kathy Shorr

New York native Kathy Shorr traveled the United States photographing 101 individuals of different ages, genders and socioeconomic backgrounds, all of them with something in common; surviving gun violence.

Long Island, New York, 2013. Janine, a Corrections officer, was accosted at home by her husband, a captain with the Corrections Department. He shot her after she told him that their marriage was over. ©Kathy Shorr

The Hope and Resilience of Animals, in Photos

“I first saw Chloe as I was passing a beautiful rolling pasture on my drive home,” Debra Hodges remembers. “It was late afternoon. Her whiteness was shimmering against the dark green of the forest behind her as she grazed in a pasture green with the promise of warmer days ahead. I’d driven by that pasture for years and had never seen her. I knew I had to photograph her.”

After weeks of searching for the property owner and the lessee, Hodges finally got to meet Chloe–a senior horse in her 20s. Chloe had been with her family for eight years, and she had melanoma. “From a distance, she was perfection,” the artist says. “Up close she had a large mass growing at the edge of one of her eye sockets. And the base of her tail was deformed by a collection of lesions and growths that hadn’t yet interfered with her bodily functions but would before long.”

What is beauty? Mihaela Norok traveled around the world to answer the perennial question

DUBLIN, IRELAND – When Amy-Mae started to show me a few Irish dancing moves it felt like she was flying. She made it look so simple, but behind it there are years of efforts and sacrifices. She started to practice Irish dancing when she was only two years old. ©Mihaela Noroc

Romanian photographer Mihaela Norok embarked on a journey throughout the globe to create The Atlas of Beauty, an ambitious project that seeks out to prove that beauty is everywhere around us and comes in all shapes, colors, and sizes.

These fantastical images celebrate the natural order of the earth

Nature is our greatest teacher, providing ample evidence of the wisdom of the earth, the cycles of life and death ever flowing from one into the next. It is here in nature that we learn the truth: the beauty and power of the sublime, the ineffable, unspeakable grandeur that existence inspires.

But with the words written in Genesis 1:26, the world has lost its way, for the very idea that we have dominion over what does not belong to us is a sin of the worst kind. We are stewards and our role is to preserve and conserve so that nature continues to provide abundance, rather than wipe us off the earth as payback for the abuses of greed, gluttony, wrath, sloth and pride that have wrought the horrors of climate change to our doorstep.

The further we remove ourselves from nature, stashed indoors and stuck behind screens, in a state of constant consumption, always needing more and never satisfied, the more perilous the payback will be, according to Newton’s Third Law: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Yet it is entirely too easy to forget, to lose ourselves in the conveniences and conventions of the postmodern world, to presume that there are no consequences for our choices just because we cannot see them yet. We can rationalize the irrational until such a day the center can no longer hold, and the weight of our delusions shall break the dam, a deluge of glacial proportions.

Cruising Down “The Boulevard” of the San Fernando Valley During the 1970s

After World War II came to a close, a new phenomenon crept across the United States. As many adolescents no longer had to drop out of school and get a job to support their family, the era of the teenager began. Born of a potent combination of combination of leisure time, disposable cash, angst, boredom and rebellion, teens soon discovered true freedom came from owning or borrowing a set of wheels.

The car — perhaps the most potent symbol of American self-determination at the expense of the environment — became the vehicle to freedom of a sort: the ability to go cruising at night. From the late 1940s through well into the 1990s, cruising down the main streets, avenues, boulevards, and specially designated strips became the coolest thing a teen could do.

Growing up in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California during the 1950s and ‘60s, American photographer Rick McCloskey spent his youth cruising Van Nuys Boulevard every Wednesday night. His family home, just one city block from “The Boulevard” was located a few blocks from the famed Bob’s Big Boy Restaurant, home of the All-American meal: burgers and milkshakes.

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