Since 1997 I’ve been photographing incarcerated teens in Washington State. They live in state and county institutions, often referred to as “schools.” In fact, they are jails for juniors–full of secrets and hidden from the public’s eye. Inside, everything is bright and fully exposed. Everyone is watched. The residents are here for committing crimes, but bad luck and accidents of birth contribute to the likelihood of imprisonment.
I’ve been continually struck by the simultaneous vacuity of these institutions and the intensity and passion found in the faces of its young residents. It is these faces that I asked to do the talking. There is more to learn from the eyes than from the architecture. There are exceptions. The Green Hill School’s Intensive Management Unit, for example, demanded my attention as the most inhumane living environment I ever witnessed.
It is my hope that as viewers look at these images, they consider some of the messy and complicated issues surrounding such a great number of young people who live, laugh, and suffer in exile.
-Steve Davis 2005
review in The Stranger
Matthew Kangas, Redneck Chic, Art Ltd.
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