Photographs by Alyse Emdur.
Four Corners Books, 2012. 192 pp., 158 color illustrations, 6½x9¼".
In Prison Landscapes artist Alyse Emdur (born 1983) presents over 100 photographs of prison inmates presenting themselves in front of the idealized landscapes of painted visiting-room backdrops, posing with their visitors and pretending, for a moment, that they are elsewhere. Prison Landscapes explores this little-known genre of painting and portraiture seen only by inmates, visitors and prison employees. Created specifically for escape and self-representation, the paintings of tropical beaches, waterfalls, mountain vistas and cityscapes invite sitters to engage in fantasies of freedom. Prison Landscapes offers viewers a rare opportunity to see America’s incarcerated population, not through the usual lens of criminality, but through the eyes of inmates’ loved ones. The book includes correspondence with prisoners and an interview with prison artist Darrell Van Mastrigt.
Featured image is reproduced from Alyse Emdur: Prison Landscapes. The caption reads, 'I think the murals are supposed to represent illusions. Even if I pretended that I was someplace else, reality would not let that moment last long. I’m always aware of where I’m at. The illusion serves as an escape for some but for me, it is only a prop to make me feel like I should be happy in a place where everyday is sad. I like being in front of the camera and I like photography period. Nobody has a camera in here and we can’t take pictures outside of the prison.' - Antoine Ealy