The Frist Center for the Visual Arts presents photographs by New Orleans natives Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola from February 23-May 28, 2018.
The Frist Center for the Visual Arts presents photographs by New Orleans natives Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola from February 23-May 28, 2018. In the Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery, Slavery, the Prison Industrial Complex features the husband-and-wife team’s poignant photographs of life and labor practices on the prison farm, the largest maximum-security prison in the United States.
Calhoun and McCormick have been documenting African American life in Louisiana for more than 30 years. Since 1980, they have made regular visits to Angola, which was founded on the consolidated land of several cotton and sugarcane plantations and named for the country of origin for many of the slaves who worked the land (incidentally, Nashvillian Adelicia Acklen inherited the land that formed the Louisiana State Penitentiary from her first husband in 1845 and owned it until 1880).
Angola is also called “The Farm” because it continues to grow cash crops—as much as four million pounds a year—using inmate labor. “In the minds of Calhoun and McCormick, slavery never really ended at Angola,” says Frist Center curator Katie Delmez. “As first-hand witnesses to exploitative labor practices, they use their cameras as tools for social engagement, reminding their audiences of persistent racial inequities, especially throughout the American criminal justice system.”
The 22 mostly black-and-white images record the exploitation of the men incarcerated while also showcasing the nuances of prisoners’ individual narratives.
Publication The Frist Center has produced a hardcover book titled Louisiana Medley about the couple’s work.
Exhibition Credit This exhibition was organized by the Frist Center for the Visual Arts.