Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Friendly Ghost

Photographs by Lori Waselchuk at Kiang Gallery.

THIS is worth reading.

The Louisiana State Penitentiary, a hospice program was established with prison volunteers, to look after terminally ill prisoners, along with 24-hour vigils, memorial services, and hand crafted caskets and a hearse made by the prisoners.

"Hospice Volunteers Walk George's Coffin to the Hearse" 2007 Pigment Print

Interesting to see this show as the follow up exhibition to McCallum and Tarry's "Another Country". While these images are in the same genre of documentary, black and white figurative photography, dealing with racially charged imagery, McCallum/Tarry's work was very much about their own interpretation of the historical images, the artists touch on display in the layering the imagery, while Waselchuk is a return to straight photography, to the creation of new documents in which the artist gives herself over to the documentation of a current phenomena. And what's more, while McCallum/Tarry exhibited a personal struggle with the past, Waselchuk is giving us a new hope for the future.

"Terry, a Hospice Patient, Remains in Lockdown" 2007 Pigment Print

What is most striking about this work, is that despite the heavy subject matter and the grim conditions, these photographs come across as endearing, hopeful, and heart warming.

"George is Lifted" 2007 Pigment Print

Waselchuk forgoes the easy shots of suffering for the obscure moments of compassion, each image tinged with, however faint, a silver lining.

"Morning Prison Walk" 2007 Pigment Print

All images are actually black and white, my attempt at taking photos of photos turned them all a bit sepia.

The photograph "Bones Drives the Funeral Hearse" (2007) is incredible. Reminds me of something out of a New Orleans funeral march, or the world of Tim Burton.

The ornate carriage (and driver) seem more out of the underworld than a State Penitentiary. The level of commitment and ceremony is beautiful, and surprising. I still can't get beyond the fact that the carriage is hand-made by the prisoners. Waselchuk ended her statement with the line "Prison officials say that the program has helped to transform one of the most violent prisons in the South into one of the most peaceful maximum security institutions in the United States." After looking at this image, I can see why.

This one is titled "George's Things are Marked with His Nickname (Casper the Friendly Ghost)."

Oh man.

"Calvin Helps Turn George in Bed" 2007 Pigment Print
Those eyes will haunt you.

Show is up until July 12th 2008. Check it out.


david said...

those are some powerful photographs. i'm like you, the hearse driver and the last one are especially good.

LindsayHeyHey said...

these are amazing. thank you for posting this...will have to stop in and have a look see for myself.