Today I read about Alyse Emdur’s photography project with prisoners, in the magazine Art Papers. She has had prisoners take photographs of themselves in front of painted, romanticized scenes and send them to her. They show the prisoner within a space of calm much different from the reality I am sure. Emdur became pen pals with many of them learned their stories and then decided to start this project.

It started with her as a young girl, going to visit someone (it did not say) in prison, and taking a photo in front of this tropical looking scene with her brother. It becomes a comment about how she felt when she visited, these photos almost glossing over the emotions of the experience. A lot of these photos of the prisoners were to be sent to their children and loved ones, if only to let them be seen as they are remembered.

Although this has the message of freedom, they still are paintings done on the walls of a prison. This shows how this scene, this happiness, is only a mirage and they are still being confined and controlled by the law. I think that it as well comments on society and how we can feel free, but we are still held to certain standards that are limiting to us being fully free. We are confined with the power of “the norm”. Even the most original and eccentric people in one way or another become just a piece of what society is, or goes against.

For instance you cannot be different without being thought of as strange, stupid or insane. A person going in a completely different direction than “the norm”, is still defined by it. Because we are all held up to this type of confinement, we are never going to be truly free. We have to get rid of this notion of what is accepted and normal. Because even the slightest differences can be taken extremely precociously by the parts of society that follow this normality with vigilance.


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