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Hailing from small towns in the woods of northern California, photographer Justin Maxon grew up part-time on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation. A visual storyteller, arts educator, and journalist, Maxon employs an interdisciplinary approach that acknowledges the socio-historical context to his work in order to create a space for multiple voices to address the issues at stake.

Maxon recently won the 2020 CENTER Project Development Grant for Livin’ the Dream, a participatory media project made in collaboration with artists Leslie Castellano and Laura Montagna that brings together incarcerated people held at the Humboldt County Correction Facility in Eureka, CA. The program is one chapter of three that navigates substance abuse recovery for the currently and formerly incarcerated in Humboldt County.

Individuals who participated in prison-based treatment followed by a community-based program post incarceration were 7 times more likely to be drug free and 3 times less likely to be arrested for criminal behavior than those not receiving treatment. Yet, of the roughly $81,000 California spends annually to house each of its prison inmates, just $2,478 (3%) just goes toward rehabilitation programs (2018-2019 fiscal year).

Inspired by a 2015 study on visualization techniques in goal achievement published by the Journal of Consulting Psychology released a study on visualization techniques in goal achievement, Maxon recognized the power of belief in helping individuals increase their capacities for achievement.

He invited each participant to identify their dream — being a surfer, drummer, boat captain, motivational speaker, wizard — and invited them to act out the role for a series of photographs. The participant was then given their portrait, which they then cut out and set into a collage depicting the landscape of their desires in which they were the central protagonist.

Each subject then captioned their work to give voice to their dream, their words speaking to the very power of visualization and art therapy. “I don’t know where to start. The inspiration for making art is to strengthen myself in the process. This is the first time I have ever gotten into a project,” Raymond writes.

“This project has helped me realize things I didn’t know about myself. I didn’t realize the strength I had…also the beauty in the other people as well as myself. My art is a different type of art—it isn’t drawing or making shit…it is like a form of art of the mind. Thought it endless. There is more than one possible way to think. For myself, I hope to spread strength and love.”

All images: © Justin Maxon

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