Favorite

Prison pics; the Gazette remembered 

FROM THE DRAWER: Photo of Cummins inmate.
  • FROM THE DRAWER: Photo of Cummins inmate.

Photographs made at the Arkansas penitentiary in the early part of the 20th century and lifted by Bruce Jackson, a professor at SUNY at Buffalo, from a drawer there are the best reason to buy “Pictures from a Drawer: Prison and the Art of Portraiture” (Temple University Press, paperback, $34.95).

Stark black and white and blurry pictures of men and women, in their stripes or ragged clothes, their prison number across the bottom, have the same draw as Disfarmer's dead-on, direct portraits. These mugs are grim, sometimes blank and strangely unlike contemporary faces, the result, perhaps, of the photographer's intention to only create a record. Jackson, who previously published a book of his own photographs made at Cummins, posted many of these early 20th century images on his website, csac.buffalo.edu, in 2004. He's churned them for this just-released book, which he prefaces with 50 pages of commentary on how he obtained the photos (he stole them from a drawer at Cummins in 1975), philosophical musings on the art of portraiture, the details of the photographs (size, setting, date) and dozens of unanswered and, after a while, annoying questions (a paragraph from a section on the women's photos is a series of eight questions, beginning with: “Am I eroticizing them? Were the photographers? Were the women prisoners, or some of them, eroticizing the encounter? Do women relate to a camera differently from than men? Did these women? …”). Jackson excuses his pinching the pictures — the property of the state of Arkansas — by referring to them as “unneeded duplicates,” something historians would take issue with. The pictures do have unusual power and perhaps musings on why that's so are in order, but Jackson's exposition is less academic than scattershot. Much of his writing — such as references to Greek funerary portraits at al-Fayyum in Egypt — feels like filler.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Tags:

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Leslie Newell Peacock

  • Fountain Fest sculpture reveal tonight at the Arts Center

    You'll have to go to the Arkansas Arts Center's Fountain Fest tonight to see how Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects' winning sketch was carried out as the temporary sculpture in the Carrie Remmel Dickinson fountain. The party, with food, drink and music, gets going at 5:30 p.m.
    • Oct 19, 2017
  • Blue Canoe to open new brewing and gaming space

    Blue Canoe Brewing Co. is opening a 20,000-square-foot brewing and gaming space at 1637 E. 15th St., the old PC Hardware warehouse. Macie Fellows, who described herself as a “brand ambassador,” said the space, which Blue Canoe has remodeled “from the ground up,” will be Blue Canoe’s primary brewery.
    • Oct 11, 2017
  • Apartment project announced for SoMa

    The Lasiter Group announced today that it will build a 35-unit apartment complex in the 1300 block of Scott Street called the Villa View. The development, on the west side of Scott, will face the historic Villa Marre. The project should be complete by the end of 2018.
    • Oct 6, 2017
  • More »

Most Shared

  • Guest Playlist: Flap Jones of "Not Necessarily Nashville" schools us on real country music

    "Not Necessarily Nashville," which airs on KUAR-FM 89.1 every Saturday, 7 p.m.-9 p.m., celebrates three decades of the "best of the rest of country music" Saturday, October 21 at the White Water Tavern with Brad Williams of The Salty Dogs & The Creek Rocks, and we asked host Flap Jones to curate a playlist for us ahead of that anniversary celebration.
  • Discussion: State killing of the mentally ill

    The Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and others will have a forum on mental illness and the death penalty at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Bowen School of Law's Friday Courtroom.

Latest in Books

Event Calendar

« »

October

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Thumped again

    • No new life for the Hogs this week. Gus will have the Tigers focused and…

    • on October 19, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation