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"Photo Requests from Solitary" (now at Photoville, Brooklyn) getting great press!

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“Photo Requests From Solitary,” has gotten great press in the past week from GawkerFlavorwireDaily Mail Online and  Huffington Post, with a few more on the way!

Check it out at Photoville, going on now through this weekend!

Parsons Photography faculty member Jeanine Oleson co-curates an exhibition called, “Photo Requests From Solitary,” a unique collaboration between artists and people held in maximum security prisons.

This project, initiated in 2009 by Tamms Year Ten (TY10), a grassroots coalition of artists, advocates, family members and men formerly incarcerated in Tamms Correctional Center in southern Illinois, tackles the question: “What would a person in complete isolation want to see?”

Men in solitary confinement at Tamms supermax prison in Illinois were asked to request a photograph of anything in the world, real or imagined. The responses included the place where the Robert Taylor Homes used to be, a gray and white warmblood horse rearing in cold air and a lovesick clown with an old-fashioned feather pen.

In 2013, in collaboration with Parsons The New School for DesignSolitary Watch, and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the project expanded to California and New York, and students, artists and volunteers are currently working to fulfill requests from these states, as well as using the project to support local campaigns to stop the use of solitary confinement.

The “Photo Requests from Solitary” exhibit and panel at Photoville are supported by the Open Society Documentary Photography Project, and is curated by Laurie Jo Reynold of Tamms Year Ten, Jeanine Oleson of Parsons The New School for Design, and Jean Casella of Solitary Watch, and features some of the fulfilled photographic requests, along with the unfilled requests from the next phase of the project. More information can be found here. 

© Rachel Herman

Photo by Rachel Herman, 2011 for the “Photo Requests From Solitary” project


Willie requested a picture of a vigil at Bald Knob Cross on top of a hill in southern Illinois to pray for his deliverance from Tamms and to be granted parole from prison. In order to take this photograph, TY10 caravanned down to the cross, held a litany of song and prayer and celebrated with a dinner. The next day, we drove family members to visit loved-ones at the prison. Willie was transferred from Tamms, and on July 27, 2012, he was paroled after 36 years in prison. We had a Welcome Home party for him the week of his return. Photo by Rachel Herman, May 6, 2011.


Photo by Laurie Jo Reynolds, 2011 for the “Photo Requests From Solitary” project


Several men asked for photos of themselves, taken from their online Department of Corrections photos, to give to their families. Robert wanted his picture matched with an alternate background. He wrote, “If you can place my picture on another background, nothing too much please. Something simple like a blue sky with clouds or a sunset in the distance would be fine.” Robert also said, “I want to extend my love to you, for you, as you have already done for me. Because genuine, authentic true love is when you do for others just because you can, and you hold no preconceived notion that you will be getting anything in return.” Photo by Laurie Jo Reynolds, 2011.


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