Photo Requests From Solitary: I Don't Have Nobody Out There

Abby Zimet

It took ten years to close Illinois' notorious Tamms supermax prison, where inmates sometimes endured decades of solitary confinement - a battle one grateful prisoner described as "moving the Mountain of the state with nothing but teaspoons and chopsticks and paper clips." To both build publicity and ease that time, activists with Tamms Year Ten launched the “Photo Requests From Solitary” project, wherein inmates could request a photograph of anything in the world, and photographers out in the world would oblige them. The requests were touching, odd, often startlingly  detailed: a grey and white horse rearing in weather cold enough to see his breath, Auntie Gibby's green and white duplex-like house taken from the sidewalk between two and four p.m., a lovesick clown with an old-fashioned feather pen. A show of the photographs from Tamms opened this week in Brooklyn. When Tamms finally closed last January, inmates were moved to another, incrementally better prison. The group, partnering with Solitary Watch and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, is continuing the project at two supermaxes in New York and California where, yes, people remain in solitary.

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