New Orleans natives Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick have been documenting African American life in Louisiana for more than 30 years. Since 1980, they have made regular visits to the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola to photograph life on the prison farm, which was founded on the consolidated land of several cotton and sugarcane plantations. Their poignant black-and-white images record the exploitation of the men incarcerated within the maximum-security prison farm while also showcasing the prisoners’ humanity and individual narratives. The husband-and-wife team’s work has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale. Calhoun and McCormick use their cameras as tools for social engagement, reminding their audiences of persistent racial inequities, especially throughout the American criminal justice system.
The Frist Center will produce a hardcover book titled Louisiana Medley about the couple’s work. Published by Lucia∣Marquand, the book will include 70 plates, a foreword by Dr. Deborah Willis, chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, a career overview by Frist Center executive director and photography historian Dr. Susan H. Edwards, and an essay by Dr. Makeda Best, Richard L. Menschel Curator of Photography, Harvard Art Museums, that places the images of Slavery, the Prison Industrial Complex in the context of other prison photographs.
Pictured: Chandra McCormick. Work Call, men behind barbed wire fencing waiting to go to work in the fields of Angola, 2004. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the artist. © Chandra McCormick