In 2002, in pursuit of a photo-documentary project with genuine social import, and of significance to others beyond my own personal art work, I began the Jail Project: Arizona.
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Jail system is, in large part, due to the controversial policies of its Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a focus point of national and international issues. The immigration and border crisis, incarceration of populations, socio-economic disparities, gang violence, family and community distress, and all the difficulties of balancing order in support of our American constitutional ideals of freedom, are in dynamic tension here.
I decided, at the outset of the project, to look at this complex subject, not with my own media-driven preconceptions, but with the wide-open eyes of ‘a visual artist’. I intended to look past, or around, my prejudices, to see things as they are, not as how I expected them to be. An impossible task admittedly, but still a noble and worthy goal, I think.
Introducing myself as an artist opens up intimate dialogue. People line up, as many as 30 deep, to sign a release, often stating that they want to help the project specifically because I’m an artist, independent, and not a journalist or yet another media employee. They offer me personal access. I only photograph those people openly willing to participate in my project.
Recent showings of the work, and lectures I been asked to give, show that this approach, that of ‘a visual artist’, is bringing people insight of these issues in individually meaningful ways. I am moved and inspired by their responses and expressions of support.
Thank you for your interest.