Pen Pals of San Quentin
The Convicts and Their Companions project was launched in 2019, when I was given permission to go inside San Quentin prison to photograph inmates working with dogs to help them overcome issues preventing them from being adopted.
My project began with the simple goal to document the program but evolved into a more ambitious study of what can happen when the acute discomfort of imprisonment collides with its opposite -- the profound comfort of a canine companion. There are powerful contrasts and contradictions inherent in the setting and an extraordinary humanity that flows from them.
The first day I brought my woman’s lens into a men’s prison took me well outside my comfort zone. I started by making photos in the public spaces. As I became more comfortable with the men and they with me, I was able to build the trust needed to become more ambitious, making photographs in the men’s private spaces and initiating deeper conversations with them.
As the project further evolves, I hope to reveal the many contrasts present in the environment in raw form, without necessarily resolving them. I especially want to make the important images that are less pretty: there is hope and love but also loss and pain to be witnessed.
My overall goal is to encourage people to challenge their own assumptions about the incarcerated, and other stereotypes, not by forcing my own point of view, but by inviting them to see the humanity of these subjects with fresh eyes – their own.