Can Photos Of Beautiful Decay Help Us Grapple with Urgent and Current Issues in Prison Politics?

Prison Photography

Gas Chamber With Two Chairs, Missouri State Penitentiary, #5 (2012)

Gas Chamber With Two Chairs, Missouri State Penitentiary, #5 (2012)

Fine art photographer Lee Saloutos makes images of abandoned structures. One of his projects looks at mid-century mining structures, another project is photographs made in abandoned prisons. In terms of his aesthetic approach the two are related. Generally, I am not interested in photographs of defunct prisons, but in Saloutos’ artist statement there is an an acknowledged discord between the look of prisons (beautiful decay) and the history of prisons (brutality).

“These prisons often have a long and frightening history. The design and function of these places of confinement and punishment can be jarring, utilitarian, and brutal,” says Saloutos in his artist statement.

Saloutos has photographed in Wyoming, New Mexico, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Alcatraz. He’s got his sights on a prison in Tennessee.

His statement continues, “It is easy to see and feel the anger…

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