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Jenn Ackerman


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Emerging Photographer Fund – FINALIST (number two of eleven)

The continuous withdrawal of mental health funding has turned jails and prisons across the U.S. into  default mental health facilities. The system designed for security is now trapped with treating mental illness and the mentally ill are often trapped inside the system with nowhere else to go.

I left the prison everyday feeling the same way the warden and the doctors do – wanting to help these men that have nowhere else to go but feeling helpless. My intention was to produce a riveting body of work that made the viewer feel what I felt when I was inside the prison. There were days that I was extremely scared and others that I left thinking how much someone on the outside missed them. Some days, I had to remind myself that many of these men had done heinous things. There were also days when I was reminded that some of these men have faded into the system with no hope of getting out.

I saw them cry. I saw them hit themselves so hard in the head that they bled. I saw them throw their feces at the officers. I saw a world most people don’t even know exists in America.

Thus far, this project documents the Correctional Psychiatric Treatment Unit at the Kentucky State Reformatory. I chose this institution because it is regarded by many as one of the best psychiatric units in the country.

The project portrays the daily struggle inside the walls of the unit redesigned to treat mental illness and maintain the level of security required in a prison. The photos take viewers into an institution where the criminally insane are sometimes locked up in their cells for 23 hours a day with nothing to occupy their minds but their own demons.

I have an excitement for storytelling and believe it is a great honor and privilege to share the stories of people who otherwise might not be heard. I specialize in long-term, in-depth, documentary projects and believe strongly in its ability to increase social awareness. My goal is when an image can make you feel something you can no longer forget it exists.

While this is a topic that has been covered in foreign countries, we have yet to see an in-depth photo documentary on the inhumane treatment to the mentally ill in America. Thus, this story is one I am honored to tell given the access that I was granted. Throughout this past year, I balanced my time shooting stills and video. While I also believe the edited film will be powerful, I know that the still images cannot be ignored and will have a lasting impact.

See more photos and the short documentary film at http://www.jennackerman.com/trapped.


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Jenn Ackerman


368 thoughts on “jenn ackerman – trapped [EPF Finalist]”

  1. I’m a little confused by the artist statement. You say you choose this facility not because it was inhumane. Then later you say:

    “While this is a topic that has been covered in foreign countries, we have yet to see an in-depth photo documentary on the inhumane treatment to the mentally ill in America.”

    Your photos and the selection of the facility you chose seem to argue against your thesis.

  2. JIM…

    answering your question from the previous thread…our essays on BURN have always been up for four days or longer…..

    while her wording could have been misinterpreted, i read it five times and see no contradiction…please re-read carefully…perhaps she could re-phrase to make it more clear, but her written intent is obvious..she chose this facility because of the superlative psychiatric care…not because it was inhumane….

    since you are a news editor, and you know very well what Jen is trying to say, would you be kind enough to rewrite that sentence??? i am sure she would appreciate it….

    cheers, david

  3. I understand it is unlikely you are going to get photos of inhumane treatment, without going undercover. But you aren’t showing us an in-depth photo documentary of inhumane treatment. Just confusing.

  4. David, they haven’t stood alone for four days. Just seems as a forum topic it’s exhausted in a couple of days. Just a comment.

  5. JIM…

    due to the fact checking imperative and production time, there are two stories (this one included) which just cannot be rushed….i think we can publish our next one within 48 hours rather than the 72 we just had to take for this one…

  6. Pete Marovich

    OK, I read and re-read it a bunch of times and was typing a response agreeing with Jim and then I think I understood…..

    This sentence is the one that is confusing….

    “I choose this institution not because it is inhumane but rather because it is one of the best psychiatric units in the country.”

    But… I think what she is saying that her main reason for selecting this institution is that it is one of the best units in the county, she didn’t just choose it because it is inhumane…. although I gather she feels it is….

    That said, I loved it when I saw it some time ago and I still do. Very powerful work and images that can only be captured by investing A LOT of time.

    I would like to know if the institution knows that she felt the treatment was inhumane. And how will she get access to more places if they know the intent of the story.

  7. lovely, please fasten your seat belts for the next jim power inquisition, and now he’s got a tanto side-kick that says what he says is ‘well stated and valid’ it would have been so much better if tanto said ‘and i concur’

    i’m just going to go out on a limb and give the author the benefit of the doubt: maybe ‘inhumane’ doesn’t mean that the workers were doing something ‘mean’ to the mentally ill. Maybe she just meant that correctional facilities were not the best place for mentally ill people to be helped or kept safe.

    But that’s just me looking for the simple answer to the confusion, please do carry on with the witch hunt, maybe you can find some more hanger-oners.

  8. I’m not sure the photographer, from the statement, completely understands the dynamic. The behaviors she described as troubling to her are behaviors common to the insane. I worked my way through college on the psychiatric unit of a hospital. Someone would come in, see their family member strapped to a gurney with leather restraints and shot up with Thorezine, and protest that we were not treating him right. Three hours earlier, in the emergency room, this guy the crap out of six orderlies and two policemen.

    If the thesis is that criminally insane people are treated inhumanely in America, this essay fails to illustrate that thesis.

  9. Pete Marovich

    I feel one of my “ferret with Tourette’s on a triple espresso” moments coming on…..

  10. I have to agree with Jim. I also cringe a bit at the use of the world inhumane treatment, which is right away indicting, and maybe here, should be qualified with the relevant infos pertaining to who, what, and how.

    I am afraid again, we are going for 4 days, talk about the text more than the photographs, which for me, are within that style I found quite around these days, and interchangeable with any other “inside” stories for a while now. Not being negative, as any language, it can be the best to use.

    From a humanitarian point of view, definitely a valid EPF finalist. Even though the claim that “most people have no idea…” is becoming a bit facile to place under just about every inside story under the sun.

  11. Come on Pete. You take this essay to an editor and he says, “Cool photos, what are they of?” And the photographer says, “One of the best psychiatric units in the county…but these folks are being inhumanely treated in America.” Where would such an essay go?

  12. Jim if you are saying that people who are mentally ill are best treated in a facility for criminals then i think you fail to completely understand the dynamic.

  13. panos skoulidas

    Hey Jim…:)
    You? Have been a nurse to a mental hospital???
    No wonder that “crazy” guy beat the hell out
    of the doctors, nurses and the cops..
    Laughing… I used to think I’m crazy..
    but no, not anymore.. not me..
    ( maybe little unstable but definitely NOT crazy)
    I don’t wanna end up on Jim’s chair all leather strapped
    and thorazined up… That would make a crazy person simply INSANE…
    Stanley Kubrick C.Orange style..
    Eyes forced wide open watching NATGEO MOVIES all day and night long…
    What a torture…:))))))
    love u Jim

  14. Herve, the significance of the text is that without it there would be no way of determining exactly what we are looking at. The text is confusing.

  15. Herve, i agree the text doesn’t do the photographer any favors, but….

    you know what, go for it, then.

    I’ve hated artist statements like this since i discovered photography, if the mob decides to indict the photography because the writing was weak, maybe the message will be clear next year. Shred away.

  16. Pete Marovich

    If the best we are doing in this country is inhumanely treating the insane, then I would say there is everywhere to go with it. Look what happened when the Post broke the story on one of the best veteran’s hospitals in the country. Sometimes our “best” isn’t good enough.

  17. Joe, where would YOU treat the criminally insane? They may be insane, but they are still criminals. Bad guys. Off the meds, harming and killing people.

  18. The series is fine. Well done.

    I feel sad for these ill people and personally I wouldnt have shown them photographed without their individual personal permisson. I dont know what permission you had as I cannot read it in the text. Just a point which is important (regarding ethical not law) to me and I wanted to mention.

  19. Pete, we have only the assertion by the photographer that these people are being treated inhumanely. An assertion underneath photos that say nothing about inhumane treatment.

  20. Manuel Garcia

    In my point of view I dont see the photographer trying to defend any certain thesis, I just see an open window for a drama thats its happening. I can see, feel and even smell the pain of this people regardless other ethic considerations. And for my the pictures work. Many others photographers in the same situacion would have let me indiference, but Jenn vision has shaken something inside me and I think thats the point.

  21. No time to comment on the work at the moment, but a note:

    There need not be contraction in the reading of the meaning of “I choose this institution not because it is inhumane but rather because it is one of the best psychiatric units in the country.” and the statement. It is grammatically the same as saying

    “I choose the sorbet not because it was low calorie but rather because it was one of the best desserts available.”

    The sorbet may indeed be low calorie, but that was not the reason for choosing it.

  22. Joe, Jenn wrote, not inhumane, but inhumane treatement, and then we are being accused of reading just that…Inhumane treatment.
    It now happens for every essay. people use words they read exactly as they want, so it makes their point which conveniently is “clearly” that of the author, with a careful “maybe” affixed to it.

    If the system is inhumane, it is not the treatment, for crissakes!

  23. Herve, but we are looking at an essay. Where is the evidence that the system is inhumane? Perhaps it is, perhaps not. But the essay does not address that issue. It’s a group of photos from inside a prison.

  24. Dietmar, I agree personally. But I’m sure all of this was covered in the fact checking.

  25. and JIM

    about her photos “not showing inhumane treatment”..

    let’s be clear, the artist states front and center that the institution is as trapped in taking on this roll to provide psychiatric care as are the mentally ill in the system. It is NOT a question of the workers in the institution committing human rights violations/ doing inhumane acts by choice. It is an examination of how the system, even in the most exemplary facility, fails to allow for “compassion, sympathy, or consideration” of the patients-inmates to a level the the photographer finds relevant.

    And her photos are showing the inhumanity of the system.

  26. Pete Marovich

    I see this as more of a conceptual work than literal. I don’t need to see inmates being beaten into submission. There is a great feeling of desperation, hopelessness and despair. I think DAH can explain what I am trying to say better than I am doing here.

    This is more than “a group of photos from inside a prison!”

  27. Just checked the laws again. It is prohibited to take photos in mental institutions if there are patients in the photos.

  28. Pete Marovich

    And I agree with erica. It is not the people Jenn is pointing to as inhumane. It is the system. I meant to have that in the last post.

  29. Pete Marovich

    “It is prohibited to take photos in mental institutions if there are patients in the photos.”

    Obviously it is not. Hence the photos.

  30. HERVE

    the statement allows that both the system is inhumane (failing to allow for “compassion, sympathy, or consideration” for the patient-inmates) and that the treatment (the techniques or actions customarily applied in a specified situation, aka 23 hour/day confinement) of the patient-inmates is also inhumane?

  31. Indicting? No, just talking, Joe.

    Ok, here’s my take, IMO:

    either the photographer is a writer too, and he (she) will be able to avoid common pitfalls to explanatory texts that end up explaining little, and confusing a lot. If not a writer, why not a very simple text, just a few lines, mostly where, what and when. On the place, not the photographer. On him/her, their stance is that of being a concerned photo-journalist/grapher/documentarist. In the case of a special technique employed, another paragraph can fit too.

    Antyhing else that is not done as professionally as the pictures, will, it’ s proven with each essay now, will be a distraction and take away from the photography, which was the reason for entering the EPF or the BURN community.

    Much of what I read, starting to tell us how we should read the pictures, almot how we should feel too, reads too much for me, IMO! as do-gooding on the part of the author (I shot that because…). IMO, not professional.

  32. All stick and no carrot. I would like to see a good non prison facility for comparison. I agree with Jim that some insane people need to be restrained, though a prison is probably not ideal the place needs to be secure.

    Dietmar why is it ethically important to get permission to show photographs of people?

  33. panos skoulidas

    So… Jim ,
    Did the photographer crossed the line?
    Did she “cheat” the system?
    Did she photographed in an illegal way,??
    In a disrespectful manner towards the patients?
    Accordind to the “Law”.. Did she exposed the patients
    without asking permission ?

  34. Panos, that’s the question.

    Harry, I surely don’t want Charles Manson in a Sanitarium down the street.

  35. failing to allow “compassion, sympathy, or consideration”

    that is not inhumane, Erica. That’s…. everyday life! :-)))

    But seriously, that in itself is not inhumane treatment.

    We all read differently, Peter, and it should not be , with a bit more carefulness, and succintness, with the text.

  36. Do you think the Correctional Psychiatric Treatment Unit at the Kentucky State Reformatory will be pleased to learn these photos are being used to point out that such institutions are inhumane?

  37. Pete Marovich

    “We all read differently, Peter, and it should not be , with a bit more carefulness, and succintness, with the text.”

    We all see differently too.

    Maybe photographers would be better off if we didn’t explain our work with words. Let the photos speak for themselves. I only say this because it is hard enough with viewers giving their interpretations of the meaning in the images. Now we are having every word of our explanations parsed… when does it end.

  38. rushing..but about the legality, there are so many issues/sides and particulars..in many states inmates lose rights granted to others, such as the power to vote, and quite possibly the option to deny consent when being photographed i am not familiar with the laws in kentucky.

    many of you know I have been shooting in my own way a piece inspired by a 2003 Pulitzer Prize winning story about the adult home system in NYC..in that 2003 case there was no consent to shoot anywhere, not from the operators, not from the patient/clients..and it not only won a Pulitzer but has lead to an upcoming trial about the lack of supportive services in these privately run “psychiatric flophouses.” I have chosen to get consent from the people i am photographing, but not from the institution..but point is that critical stories, such as levy’s, are often bred from investigative journalism and do not expect any protection from the law when gaining permissions…

  39. panos skoulidas

    If she crossed the line,
    If the Kentucky madhouse is upset
    and backed by the law..
    then why don’t they go after the photog???

  40. HERVE, that is the definition of inhumane treatment:

    failing to allow compassion, sympathy, or consideration of a human or animal in the techniques or actions customarily applied to them in a specified situation

  41. erica, if you do an investigative piece, and there might be illegality involved, then you take that risk to break a major story, not to show an essay on burn.

  42. panos, perhaps they haven’t seen the photos or where it’s being presented?

  43. Sorry, Erica, i did not answer you right. I have a bit of a problem with using a blanket term such as inhumane for a system. yes, maybe it is inhumane, but I want to say it after I got the info, not as a given from the start. With inhumane actions/treatment, it is qute different. We are not talking institutional or societal, but one act, one infliction, something we can verify by reading one example of treatment, without having to “make up our mind”.

    Just to accept that the system is inhumane from the word go, well, for me, that is putting ourselves in the camp of “people who have no idea” still. Except that’s “no idea” from the politically correct, sentimental side of things, which nowadays parades a little too much as knowledge.

    Something like that…..

  44. JIM

    (Do you think the Correctional Psychiatric Treatment Unit at the Kentucky State Reformatory will be pleased to learn these photos are being used to point out that such institutions are inhumane?)

    YES. Only my assumption but I think they are ABUNDANTLY aware of their inadequacies for patient-inmate care while knowing that they are beyond legal reproach as they are, to date, the model facility and the best the system will allow and that they are hoping that the story will allow for reform and improvements to the system, one which they know only too well is not adequate.

  45. #6 tells me a story..
    As an essay,
    the images left me wanting more,
    to see more information….
    I’m left with questions…
    maybe knowing there is a film of this,
    made me feel that,
    I dunno….
    I like the abstractions…
    of the mind…
    out of focus….

  46. Pete, that’s very interesting. Just wondering if the institution knew what she would ultimately do with the photos. I’m not sure the institution would want to be depicted as inhumane.

    Whether she had permission or not, the essay and text still don’t jive. Which is still my primary problem with it.

  47. Pete Marovich

    Obviously she had permission. And as erica explained so eloquently… The text does make sense.

  48. beyond legal reproach

    That’s where it’s at, Erica. War is inhumane (human too.. Argghhh),but it is never prosecuted, and can be beyond legal reproach, wheras inhumane treatment (war or ward) falls under indictment laws. might not get caught, corruption might save the perpetrator, but it is illegal. These nuances are important, but maybe only IMO, not others.

    Still, I do think that is the kind of confusion that an author should wish to avoid, as it invariably invites reading according to personalities, rather than plain vocabulary.

  49. David,
    just to ask again, as i don’t think this question was answered in the previous thread:
    have all of the finalists been notified already?

  50. This would of been better off as a written story supplemented by a couple of photographs……..

    “I saw them cry. I saw them hit themselves so hard in the head that they bled. I saw them throw their feces at the officers. *I saw a world most people don’t even know exists in America.*”……. people are not ignorant and are more aware than you seem to ake out with the comment, belittling does not wash with any audience

  51. Has anyone here seen Titicut Follies?

    If you have, you know… it’s the gold standard in prison psychiatric ward movies. Highly recommended, if it isn’t banned by now.

    Frederick Wiseman… now there’s a genius documentarian. I wonder what he’s up to these days?

    I just looked him up on the wikipedia… he has some interesting quotes about his work and documentary objectivity. Maybe Jim’s rigid thinking would be swayed by one of the masters of the genre? Naaahhh…

  52. Mike:

    i’ve seen Titicut…it WAS banned for years….it’s available now…Wiseman is still working….for me, the greatest documentary/humanitarian filmmaker America produced in the last 40 years….and even Titicut was one point of view: the horrid conditions of the institutes when people were locked away and hidden….

    Wiseman is a hero….


  53. Hello.!

    5, 15 and 16 carry enough weight on their own to support the idea that institutional care of the mentally ill, where human contact is limited to drug administration and restraint, and limited by protective equipment (all warranted in that milieu – given), is essentially warehousing. And at least dehumanizing, inhumane is a more difficult case to prove.

    I think the photographer, in those images where the bodily expression of “tension” in the prisoners mirrors the environmental expression (i.e. cramped, contorted etc.), succeeds well in her intent.

    Do I see an echo in #16 of an existing image of an ape (chimpanzee?) taking comfort from a human in the same way? Look long, saddens.


  54. ps. Public Housing ravaged my heart…i saw it on PBS a number of years ago….Wiseman is required viewing :))

    thanks mike :))))

  55. Jenn’s essay is a magnificent depiction of one of America’s most shameful “secrets”: the warehousing of mentally ill individuals in facilities (prisons) that are not equiped to care for them in a therapeutic way. Photographically speaking, I find her work to be wrenchingly authentic while retaining a keen artist’s eye. This essay is well chosen to be an EPF finalist and I hope Jenn receives whatever funds are needed to continue this important work. I would especially like to see her take her camera into a women’s prison. Poor health care is endemic there.

    If you have not yet gone to Jenn’s website and looked at her documentary film on this subject, I encourage you to do so.

    Regarding the line of commenting started and beaten into the ground by Jim Powers, all I can say is when will he catch on that Burn is not his newspaper and he is not its editor. Burn is an online photography magazine curated by David Alan Harvey, a photographer committed to eclectic excellence rather than being stuck in one box called photojournalism. Besides, since when did the text become more important than the images? Maybe that’s true for a newspaper, but not here. Definitely not here.


  56. OK DAH, this one I really appreciate. I paused the slideshow at #10 and just stared for about 15 minutes. Powerful work that deserves more time to develop. Will type more as I get time.

  57. Hey Bob…
    A personal tidbit… my father was a headshrinker at that same ward in the same prison back in the 90’s…

  58. My only stupid complaint is that the photos cycle too fast. My stupid mind demands that each of the images stays on my screen for at least five seconds. Anything less, I have to pause, which makes me an unwilling participant in the presentation. I’ll be happy to pause it the second time around, but not the first.

  59. Besides, since when did the text become more important than the images? Maybe that’s true for a newspaper, but not here. Definitely not here………the last time I read a book the text was pretty important and all the images were in my head.
    Yes text can override images even here

  60. Ok where to start. There are many many essays done fantastically well on institutions such as this. This work i believe has just as much power in its imagery as a lot of them. People might say ‘rats in a barrel’ but fuck em, this is heartfelt stuff thats well shot.
    My problem, along with it seems, a few others is that the text can be read multiple ways. possibly a case of eats, shoots and leaves? maybe. What I do know is that if the wording for a strong factual piece like this, with all the connotations inherent in the imagery, is not bang on, then people will be all over it like a rash, as seems to be the case. None of this stops the imagery from being powerful but it does let some ambiguity creep in, and i think its a shame as some solid words would nail this thing tight.

  61. O.K. Let’s say the text wasn’t there. How would you evaluate the photos? You wouldn’t know what they were about or where they were taken. You wouldn’t know if this was reality or performance. The photos would simply be…art. The message is lost without the text.

  62. If the intent is the evaluate the photos purely on their own merit, then perhaps it would make more sense to eliminate the artist statements.

  63. Mike :)))…we gotta talk over a drink…got some personal/family stuff to share with you too about Titicut, but not for public consumption ;))….i can imagine your father has some heart-breaking stories….

    we’ll talk later


  64. First, I want to say CONGRATULATIONS to Jenn for being lined up as a finalist. I’ve been familiar with this work since I saw it in PDN last year. I’d also seen the film, which is indeed harrowing and heart-breaking, and it’s nice to see her essay here.

    I’ve made a vow not to comment on the specifics of any more of the work shown here during this EPF finalists line-up (i’ll write something after Look). There is a lot of I wish to write about this essay (the issue a very personal one to me, as this issue, both psychiatric incarceration and criminal incarceration, has played a part in my family and my life. I will offer only this:

    one of the important contributions a person can make is there genuine, long-term and committed attempt to explore an issue in order to understand the full shadows and consequences of that issue, particularly with an issue that is loaded with immediate and visible drama. I think the important question that all photographers must ask is to wonder about and question their own relationship to subject matter and what they wish to achieve through the medium of their photographic language. One of the difficult, profoundly difficult, problems a photographer who documents others’ lives (rather than their own) is to come to terms with whether or not they have, through the power of their act, justly spoken about those and their circumstances that they have chosen to photograph.

    Maybe some of the arguments above, including the debate about the text, are manifestations of the intersecting doubt: has a person justly acted in the service of a story and subject. What will be interesting to watch over the next two weeks is whether or not all 10 finalists are photographers engaged with photographing/representing/telling the story, as document, of others: in other words, traditional documentary work, which i view both Alejandro and Jenn’s work as. Will we see different orientations?

    Anyway, Jenn’s essay is powerful and visceral and engaged with the pain and difficulty of this issue. Beautifully photographed and passionately observed. My question, as a photographer and a viewer would be this: in a story that deals with the ‘housing’ of these inmates, the distance between them and we (as viewers) is harrowing…and i wanted more than just bars…hope that makes sense…

    all the best

  65. Jenn deserves a lot of respect for having chosen to work with this important but oh so heavy and difficult subject. Just to get the permission to photograph on these places is a loong way to go, and then access to the people. It´s very important that photographers are willing to put them selves into such difficult topics.
    I think the serie is interesting and there are some really good pictures. This is obviously a work to be continued. Depending on the access she gets on the future work, I think the reportage will develope and become a powerful and important project. She can do it. A short look at Jenn´s homepage and I see that she is a great photographer!!!

  66. JENN – CONGRATULATIONS. i am down in cabo right now and although i have wireless – it is so painfully slow -that i did not view the images yet. though i am quite familiar with this story and have liked this work from the first time i saw it and am thrilled that it is chosen as a finalist. Great job Jenn! i hope you two will be back at LOOK…

    ERICA – you crack me up. i loved the sorbet reference. you nailed it and that is how i read it as well.

  67. The more I think about this use of these people’s photos, the more it bothers me. These people have been placed against their will into an institution for the insane. They clearly don’t have the capacity to personally give permission for this use of not only their photos but their names. And yet someone supposedly acting in their best interest has allowed a photographer to use their images in essay in a contest.

    Surely within the institution they would have the expectation of privacy. And even if they did not, if we can’t know their will, shouldn’t we just leave them alone? Does any benefit that might accrue to them by exposing them and their situation to the public outweigh their right in that institution to not be exploited?

  68. Pete Marovich

    “Does any benefit that might accrue to them by exposing them and their situation to the public outweigh their right in that institution to not be exploited?”

    Why don’t we ask them…. oh right I remember.

  69. Pete Marovich

    I am not sure how they are being exploited here, but I am sure Jim will tell us….

  70. This is not editorial use. The photographer is seeking money. These people are not in a public place with no expectation of privacy, they are confined against their will in an institution.

  71. This is great picture making in my opinion. Intense and visceral-this feels psychotic, violent and a place I don’t want be, yet these photos succeed in putting me there. The gritty form accentuates their uneasiness. I am reminded a bit of Alpern’s Dirty Windows in how such pictures put the viewer in such a voyeuristic, experiential position. I especially like the fluidity of 7, the force of the perspective (reflection?) of 8 and light of 15. I agree with Wendy that I’d like to see more, but not because I want more narrative, as I think the power of this series would be lost in a more conventional essay form, but simply because I didn’t want the forcefulness of this imagery to end. Congratulations and thanks for the great vision.

  72. Pete Marovich

    The photographer is seeking to be able to finish this project to expose how the mentally ill are treated and cared for in this country. Hopefully I assume to bring about change. Education and enlightenment bring change. And change would improve their care in the future. The funding to to further that goal.

    I doubt seriously that any serious photojournalist would spend that much time in such an upsetting situation, and create the caliber of images that have been created, simply for monetary gain.

    Jim, you are unbelievable!!

    If you really believe after seeing the work on her web site that she in just interested in being able to cash a check and walk around saying she won the damn EPF grant, then we have nothing more to discuss.

    That is just stupid beyond words and belief.


    Sorry DAH. Ferret with Tourette’s on a double espresso moment.

  73. I shoot in a prison several times a year. I have to have releases signed by the Warden and prisoners. The release is very restrictive (one time editorial use).

  74. Jim Powers. You seem to have a real hard on for this one, and thats fine i guess, but what you have just said about money etc and the motives of a photographer you have never met is just an insult to the photographer.I really think you should apologise for that.

    this is not(at least in my understanding) a competition at all. these are ongoing projects that are to be considered for funding from a grant award. Big difference jim.
    Also one look at this essay and then at the website and anyone can see this is no bullshit artist trying to blag a bit of cred and some dollars. this is a way serious attempt to highlight a real serious issue right on your doorstep. In fact its going on on just about everyones doorstep. And its only because people like jenn have the balls to get in there and open it up that we become aware of that. Its not in romania, its not in china…its right down the street just past walmart.
    I despair sometimes I really do.
    Peace anyway

  75. Pete Marovich

    And I have shot in prisons and never had that problem. So you are an expert in prisoner’s rights in every state in the US? If you are so concerned about her ethical situation, why don’t you email HER and ask instead of spouting off to the internet ether.

    Somehow I don’t think there is any answer that will satisfy you.

    I am done here. Anyone else want to take a crack at this? Warning… it is a no win situation. History proves it.

  76. Pete Marovich

    One more thing…

    In the spirit of what John G. just said… Your comments about money are an insult to everyone here who entered the EPF wanting to do serious work.

    It is a repulsive statement.

  77. Pete Marovich

    “what do you propose we do with the criminally insane except put them in prisons so they can’t escape?”

    THAT is the final straw.

  78. When I was in the loony bin most people there succumbed to whatever the institutions demand, treatments whether good, bad or experimental are mind benders and one ends up relying on the people that run the place. Even if someone didn’t want to be photographed they would probably toe the line even if they are able to make a “rational decision” …….. the usual line is “for the good of the cause”

  79. Actually Pete, it’s a serious question. Everyone thinks these photos show terrible things, and they do, but nobody has a better idea of what to do with these people.

  80. One thing seems to be missing here…

    comment / feedback from the photographers themselves.
    In no way do i mean this as a negative criticism, it’s just an observation.

    I understand that it’s not always practical or possible to be involved for many reasons. Some may not want to, fair enough… but whilst i often enjoy reading the conversation here, i think it’s always more beneficial when the photographer can join in and help create a richer dialogue. It would be especially interesting with regard to the EPF finalists.

    And David, Anton, quickly i’d like to say a massive thanks for all the hard work your doing, Burn is a fantastic place / addiction : ) Your life ‘behind the scenes’ must be super frantic at the moment…

  81. oh dear….
    I think any more comments regarding photographers intent,
    needs to come from her….
    lets go back to the images themselves..
    Jim P brings up some valid concerns,
    it is an endless circle…
    it is
    too hot
    in here……

  82. just a thought

    if i was an EPF finalist and my essay was published here on Burn, i would definitely NOT want a comments stream going on beneath the images. i’m not surprised that the photographers aren’t participating in these conversations, which divert attention away from the effort put into the photography and become slanging matches.

    for me these comment streams are cheapening the work of the finalists and should be stopped.

  83. I’ve suggested that several times, actually. But David says the photographers have the choice and want the comments (if I remember correctly).

  84. Pete Marovich

    Since Jim keeps suggesting it, maybe he can just do a self-imposed no comment period… HA HA

  85. JIM – i just do not understand why you can never just look at the images and appreciate good photography. why does every image have to change the world, have a motive, have a purpose, bring world peace??? Jenn is an amazingly talented young photographer and i think she needs to be congratulated and celebrated for her work.

  86. It’s simple. If you allow comments, and don’t want a completely uncensored forum, then someone has to make up the rules and then enforce them. Once you appoint people to enforce them, then you have the problem of subjective and uneven enforcement. If not everything goes, then the simple solution is to close the forums.

  87. gina, so the correct response to every photographer is to tell them what a talented photographer they are and send them on their way? What’s wrong with asking the hard questions?

  88. OK JIM one last go. The issue is NOT whether to lock some people up or not, but WHAT THE CONDITIONS THEY ARE LOCKED UP UNDER ARE LIKE.(exactly what this essay is trying to highlight) If someone is ILL, whether they are deemed criminal or not is beside the point. THEY ARE ILL…AND THEY ARE STILL HUMAN BEINGS. If there is a need , both for society and themselves, that they be detained, at least they should be detained with some dignity.

  89. panos skoulidas

    Ben :))).
    Preston :))).
    Pete :)))
    panos :(… anyway, i agree…

    but ,
    ALL… please…. let’s give JIM the freedom to speak though…:)))))))))))))))
    and let him tell us his side of the story…
    ( i mean the FAN in me woke up the fear: “what if JIM goes away..?”…
    my left brain said: “fine… if he goes , he goes… BURN is “huge”…nobody needs anybody,… really..!
    think about it… anyways…)
    but my “right brain” said: “you crazy????????
    JIM is “hot” now…
    DA MAN…
    thank y’all….

    bravo… excellent edit…
    “I totally , totally really felt something ( lots of emotions ) while watching the slideshow…
    great work..
    huge hugs..
    little salvador…

  90. John, I ask again, how would you do it with “dignity?” Put folks who bang their heads against walls and attempt suicide in a nice room, with flowers and a view? It’s not that I don’t have compassion for these folks, but I don’t see how you protect them from themselves and from harming others any other way. It’s fine to rail against injustice, but you better have an alternative when you demand change.

  91. About text. I actually think this kind of subject, if it is to effect change something, belongs to the realm of investigative journalism. Not just relying on photography. Maybe Jenn is doing just that with the jailed mentally ill, and it’s taking the shape soon of thoroughly researched article/book/movie, the reason why a grant, like the EPF, would be so important. IMO.

  92. “The photographer is seeking money.”


    I’m going to ask if you realize that by pressing submit, you are “really” publishing. Would you make a comment like this, with no proof of what you are saying? Could be considered libelous.

    -just 3 posts later-

    “I have no idea what her motives are.”

    Oh, yeah. You just say shit just to say it. Forgot.

  93. Jared, the photographer entered a contest to compete for a $10,000 prize. What’s libelous about saying she is seeking money. It’s obvious she is.

  94. I’m trying my best…
    I really am Panos…
    here you go….
    where is David?
    he’s gonna need the bottle….

  95. Anyway, I first saw this piece a couple of years ago (I think). It seemed unfinished but compelling then, and it still does now.

    I think the photography is superb and I’d love to see what Jenn pulls out if able to work more on it.

    As far as the ethical issue goes — Are we really gonna concentrate on the “ethical issue” of photography instead of the one starding at us right in the face when we view the images?

    If your first reaction is to be saddened and upset by the fact that they were photographed instead of by the conditions and treatment, then, well, that’s a shame.

  96. Jim, you don’t ask the hard questions — you ask the same questions.

    Preston: :-))))

    I agree with JIM though on going beyond the campfire singing. he never pooh poohs people who wish to celebrate a young emerging talent (though the praise lavished would have us wonder if it is not for a totally accomplished old master), let him ask questions.

    Jim, just make sure they are different every time, that’s all.. ;-) Preston, you really cracked me up with that one!

    BTW, these 2 first essays are from photographers who have been already highlighted in the press (PDN), BobB told us. David, not criticizing you or even asking you to answer, but I wonder if there will be non-professionals in your selection, people with absolutely no resumes, and no noted exposure to the profession.

  97. Jim –

    I’m not a sociologist, psychologist, psychiatrist, politician or crusader. I don’t have the answers — and neither do you.

  98. panos skoulidas

    thanks for jumping in…
    what exactly is bothering u???
    what’s annoying Herve?
    to you?

  99. jared, exactly. And neither do others. That’s why they are being warehoused. We can’t fix every problem. You’ve got to put criminally insane people in prisons. And they are going to look like prisons. Or keep drugged into a stupor. And you still have to lock them up.

  100. panos skoulidas

    … JIM… take a breath.. break… whatever…
    u just stuck in one gear… chill… relax…
    yes, everyone agrees,… if “i” entered in a “money contest”…
    yes, i entered “also” for the “money” too…

  101. My point isn’t that no one has any idea of “what to do with them,” it’s that neither you or I do.

    I’m pretty sure even I can think of something better than warehousing them in prison, though.

  102. Jim, why didn’t you enter the EPF competition? Aren’t you working on an in-depth project you’d like to complete? Wouldn’t like to have a little wind in your sails so you could finish the book or a multimedia project? Maybe you would like the attention of some editors or publishers. Or maybe you have followed DAH’s various educational initiatives and wanted to dip your toe in the water. Or maybe you believe in your work and your project and believe that you deserve a place at the table.

  103. What would I do differently? Steps can be taken to improve any situation but obviously you would have to understand the system as it is first, it is a silly thing to ask in any definitive terms of anyone not privy to the constraints, budget, etc of the system..

    Still, I’d start by looking for inspiration in the Inspector General, Kiran Bedi, who undertook major reforms of the Indian prison system. She instituted 10-day Vipassana meditation courses in the notoriously violent 10,000 prisoner Tihar jail in New Delhi. The course was held first for prison staff, then for inmates. Despite the great security risk and the diverse faiths of the the inmates, Bedi held the meditation retreat for 1,000 prisoners, all under a big old tent together. The result was one of profound transformation and healing for many many inmates and guards, and the program’s success led it to be repeated in India as well as in other countries. I am not suggesting this would work with the mentally ill, rather that when one seeks with an open heart, one often finds..

    A documentary film was made about the retreat: Doing Time, Doing Vipassana (There is a Polish version on youtube, but the other things that come up in the search are not it..)

    As a personal note JIM, I would think as an editor you would understand the inherent weakness in writing using the terms “everyone” and “no one” so freely..as well as “you”..I think you’d be wiser to stick to making comments that are specific, and use “I” instead of “you”..

  104. David (dah) ;))))….

    yup…the question was rhetorical (i think? ;))…for the audience/commentators….because i HOPE and EXPECT that by the time the 10 are unveiled there will be not ONLY different styles but at least 10 different orientations, not just ‘documentary’ photographers but photographers working different territory, conceptual, abstract, didactic, etc ;)))…and i know u too well to believe otherwise :))))…and just as the first two terrific photographers are ‘known’, i expect and hope that there will be some unknowns that get mentioned….(Herve you were reading my between-the-lines thought ;)) )…it’s all good….waiting…

    and i wont really write until the end…for now, just to congratulate all chosen…i’ll do a summation (i can see poor herve’s eyes rolling ;)) ) post LOOK3 if it’s wanted…..

    and Ben has an important point……EVERYTHING can be criticized, ad nauseum, and EVERY photographer can be criticized, it seems, sometimes to me here, that photography and photographers are on trial, even though all the photographers that i know or have met or have chatted with here have committed their life and work to the concerned effort of engagement…this place has gotten totally weird…


  105. Panos, here I’d be more interested in what change could this essay bring, how best to achieve that, than the photography. I said what I thought of the photos, in my firt post. Did you read it?

  106. Actually, folks, nothing we post here is going to make a bit of difference to the outcome of the competition or, likely, to the photographer. But the discussion is interesting.

  107. on the issue of money (my apology to Jenn) and the EPF….I ENTERED…i did last year (when there was really NO money…i entered it last year before David did the $5,000 magic trick) too…this year i entered and encouraged my wife (whose essay is magnificent and will be seen eventually) NOT BECAUSE OF FAME but because of money….my wife just finished tonight another Grant application (and i have to finish mine in 2 weeks)…grants are some of the ways both my wife and i can afford to continue, and it is a big big struggle (discussion about that tonight after dinner)…did either of us think we would win: hell no…but, my pull was for my wife to get in and then, maybe, by extension someone would see the work…i never enter contests, only grants, but it is only about continuing the projects…there is no shame in this…earning money to feed a family and to house a family and to continue to do one’;s life’s work (be that photography, writing, editing, barbering, sorbet-mix-metaphoring ;), it’s all good….and neither my wife nor i ever had any illusions of the cash here, but only that someone might see the work, and say: ok, i like that, and that moves and connects to someone else and that someone else connects and so on….

    but it aint about the fame….
    it’s just a shame that these essays are lost amid the fray….

  108. BTW, probably many of you remember the docu on romanian retarded children, I think it was taken just after the Ceaucescu years. I never cried when I saw pictures, but was uncontrollable seeing the docu on TV. Sometimes, it’s the contrary, one picture just tears you apart (the little Rwandan orphans lying down next to each other in a refugee camp, shot by david Turner) and a movie provides information. We are all different. Panos, Jenn, I am sorry, I can only be honest, the pictures did not grab me.

  109. Jenn, awesome work. I’m speechless. Good luck. You clearly have the skills and the will. I hope your project goes ahead with or without the support this competition would provide. The world needs more people like you.

    “Criminally” insane people are people with serious mental health issues. This essay exposes a shamefull failure of the system .

    It all comes down to money and will. mentally ill people, and other ill people need treatment. Treatment costs money, tax money to be specific. Taxes are the price of civilization (not my quote). Education, health care, care of the elderly and handicapped etc etc. The price of a couple of high tech bombers or the price of one week of the Iraq occupation could create a treatment program for this, and the scores of other problems the US faces.

    Y’all need to watch the movie.http://www.jennackerman.com/trapped

    This is a politcal issue.

  110. panos skoulidas

    you kiddin?
    167 comments in what??!! the last couple hours??????
    thhis essay “rocks”…
    millions watching!!

  111. I don’t think the essays are “lost amid the fray.” They are (literally) above the fray. They are what they are, regardless of what we post. If folks are more interested in the posts than the photos, then that says something as well.

  112. I am someone interested in photography and I follow Burn since quite some time. What I see here are photographers who inspire me to do better in my own photography. Of course there are essays that I enjoy more than others but without doubt they are all high class.

    I am very thankful to Mr. David Harvey to allow me to discover the work of so many fine photographers.

    Alas most comments I read on Burn are not what I expect from photographers. I wouldn’t say they are infantile but they are for sure no match with the pictures I see here. What a shame!

  113. it’s just a shame that these essays are lost amid the fray….

    Bob!!! here you go again! ;-)

    again, can’t help seeing you write this just when you decided to participate in the comments, proper, ie. enter the fray.

    The essays are not lost, either. they are the 10 chosen to be judged by eminent professionals and photographers.

    You are incorrigible!!!!! :-))))

  114. panos skoulidas

    no games..
    answer this:…”what didnt u like from this essay???”

  115. JIM..

    you ask a lot of questions..here is one for you, I mean no disrespect in it and it is a serious question. If I knew how to write you off of burn, I would.

    It seems you are using this forum in an abnormal way and I would feel remiss if I didn’t ask you – do you need help of any kind? This is a community that was born from relationships and mutual concern and respect, and if you are in some form of mental/emotional distress as it seems you may be from your writing, let us know, we’ll try to help, really.

  116. 167 comments in what??!! the last couple hours??????

    Yes, we are slowly approaching cruising speed, and just with the second EPF essy earlier than planned. The whipping must be good that keeps us rowing that fast.

    Mind you, count the comments that strictly stick to Jen’s work, not Jim’s questins, and….. OK, just whip harder!!!! :-)

  117. Pan-“167 comments in what??!! the last couple hours??????
    thhis essay “rocks”

    Seems to me you are mistaking the verbose for actual thought and contribution concerning the work. can’t be more than a few dozen worthy responses here relevant to the work in this silly diatribe.

  118. It’s simple Jim, treatment being better than warehousing. Tax money to simply imprison, tax money for humane treatment. The money is being spent either way.

  119. panos skoulidas

    Who cares Herve….
    F**k that… who cares about :”…Mind you, count the comments that strictly stick to Jen’s work, not Jim’s questins, and….. OK, just whip harder!!!! :-)”…
    Everything started from the photogs work… she inspired each and every comment…
    she even inspired Jim………..

  120. I am starting to feel bad for the finalists…. these threads IMHO get way off topic. I know I shouldn’t add fixer before developer but I can’t help post a small reply to no-one in particular…

    I enter competitions for a number of reasons:

    1) To have the chance to be exhibited in group exhibitions

    2) To have work seen in a public sphere

    3) To have work critiqued (rather than criticized)

    4) To meet new people with like minded interests and concerns

    5) To make professional contacts with curators, editors, other photographers and artists

    6) To keep busy, keep moving and feel that I am being productive and developing my professional practice

    There are stronger personal reasons to keep entering competitions than the chance of recieving the money. Most people I know personally who work on their own projects and enter competitions are just stoked when their work is chosen to be in the show, or selected as finalists. A small amount of recognition in this sense can be all the motivation a photographer needs some times to feel their work is important enough to continue, to go deeper.

    I have never met a photographer who seriously enters a competition only for the money. Money is not the driving force behind people’s work. Come on.

    Please don’t take these threads too far from the essays.


  121. panos skoulidas

    please dont worry about the “comments” published here….
    just focus at the Essays published here… or the Singles..
    focus on the photography… but best believe this…
    there’s millions out there that they are also addicted to words.. and Akaky and Bob B…
    and Patricia and Rafal and Sean G…

    All… we are all witnessing Great photography here on BURN… no???????????
    otherwise why would U wanna be around Burn in the first place , right ???????????
    your “go”…

  122. DAH

    Is this the type of thread you hope and dream for from BURN? I know I am new to it, and should probably keep my mouth and mouse quiet, but from what I have read over the last few days it sure seems like this can quickly progress to the unproductive and uninviting-even trite and mean-spirited at times. Very disappointing-I had hopes for so much more

  123. .in better English
    To enter these things one’s work has to be competition/grant friendly in order to become to be top dog and that can be too much of a compromise

  124. ANTON / DAH / JIM

    Though I meant it in the right spirit, possibly you should please pull my last comment to Jim and this one too..could be too personal ..Jim, just seems like things may be escalating for you and my concern was somewhat immediate, hence the writing it here & now..but we are listening if there is indeed something to share

  125. ….third time

    To enter these things one’s work has to be competition/grant friendly to become top dog of the pack and that can be too much of a compromise

  126. an amazing work. congrats Jenn. some people live it, some people photograph it but its impact is determined by the venues in which it is presented. While the images are painful, i don’t sense any “search for the trophy foto of human suffering”. Hand this essay to Bill Moyers or somebody like him and it would make the situation known and understandable.

  127. Erica, your compassion is remarkable. Where I simply get irritated, you look beneath all the words and ask if we can help. Thank you for your kindness. I have much to learn from you, my friend.


  128. Johan Jaansen

    I wonder how many of those 167 (and counting) comments can be attributed to Jim Powers in his delusional self-appointed role of Burn media watchdog? I am disappointed yet again how he has drawn attention away from a serious discussion of the aesthetics & quality of the essay to serve his own mysterious agenda and derail the discussion. This discussion about ethics/morals of the photographer shooting within the prison were no doubt addressed by DAH and Anton before the essay was published here on Burn. I find this stance patronising towards the editors of Burn. His sentiments vaguely remind me of of those favored by high-school science teachers that everyone does their best to ignore. I don’t think that its fair viewing essays under this atmosphere of suspicion, which esp. seems so heavy whenever he feels the need to impose this pecuilar mandate upon Burn.

    As to concerns over the context of the word ‘inhumane’, the way I read the essay, Jenn was saying that he/she chose this particular institute because of its reputation as one of the best psychiatric institutes in the country. In another way Jenn was setting the bar to a high standard and wanted to see a facility from that viewpoint. Subsequently, it became apparent through reading the text and viewing the essay, that Jenn found even the best institutes with the best reputations such as Kentucky, still treated inmates inhumanely. So, Jenn was out to set the record straight and show that even the best correctional facilities such as these still have a long way to go with prisoners rights. I can’t believe that another Burn member drew unwanted attention to this, as it seemed so self-explanatory, bordering on common sense.

    Anyway, Panos is also dead right in saying that Burn is displaying some inspiring photography. Before the EPF finalists were shown, I was so drawn to this site with such a diverse range of photography. The first EPF essay on Burn was part magic with a flowing palette of colors. What a contrast from those colors to this stark black and white? It really was quite a leap. This essay gave me access to a place that I hope I would never want to visit. I really felt confined in the cells along with the inmates/patients and I also sensed the distress or hopelessness of the guards having to monitor this unfortunate predicament. That was part of Jenn’s mission statement to bring the viewer into the cell and I felt it really worked. I felt claustrophobic towards the end, sitting in front of the safety of my monitor. It certainly was a confronting essay.

    If I have one criticism of the essay, it would be that I found the whites too strong with little definition in the highlights. I realise that high contrast is very popular these days, but normally there is more evidence of grain or noise found in the highlights. The whites of this opening shot seem a little washed out. This is only evident in some of the pictures. In the other photos there is a nice balance of black and white with some intermediates there as well.


  129. With regard to the ethics of this essay; the photographer uses her technique to provide a veil of anonymity for the prisoners. For the most part they are not really recognizable. This not only works aesthetically, it reveals a profound respect for these people.

  130. Listen guys, if you stopped commenting on everything JIm says, over and over (now you are even copying his one-liner style) maybe he would not be so omnipresent answering each one of you.

    It’s not Jim, or anyone of us dragging down the debate here, it’s the constant tit for tat. Let’s just say what we have to say, say it as best we can, and refrain (that’s me too) from over-loading the threads with our posts.

  131. Kathleen Fonseca

    *not laughing anymore*…

    just went through this essay for the first time..it´s heartbreaking, so sad i could feel my insides grip hard with the pain..we all know people with mental health problems. all of us. if we´re unlucky or lucky depending how you look at it, i consider myself fortunate, we grow in compassion and acceptance and patience and tolerance, unable to reason with a lack of reason as we know it, we adapt, we learn to cope..i see these men, i see one man´s slender arms, delicate hands..obviously young..was this why he was brought into this world? to suffer like this? another without even the comfort of a blanket..imagine? imagine in your darkest moment when escape is all you crave, not even being able to crawl under a blanket? Imagine the families, the parents..their guilt, bewilderment, sense of impotence, despair, heart break. These men know they are suffering. i remember reading a letter of despair from a suicidal young man diagnosed with schizophrenia, he wrote from under a black veil of pain railing against the fact that something happened to his ´wiring´..all of this terrible darkness within himself was simply due to wiring. He has since healed a great deal and is now a happy person but during those days, those terrible days, the same long slim arms, delicate hands, pale white and scarred by self mutilation would break my heart into bits. i can´t even right now comprehend the prison aspect of this, or the problem of inadequate funding or anything else..i am simply overcome by sadness.

    A wonderful, wonderful choice, DAH..i am blown away…


  132. Both submissions have brought up issues of concern, so the site constructive,it isn’t languishing in self praise. So what people go off the topic, on to another……… beats yappin about tyre pressure

  133. I’ve been away for a hot minute, but now am back and ready to comment…and see that nothing has changed…good and bad alike, the core of my initial gut reaction will be to the photographer whose work is shown, and I will not be wasting my type and thoughts on sucking in the negative energy of certain discussion, which neglects to succeed in this initial purpose.

    I’m so glad to see that the work of the EPF is being shown…I will be there at Look3 when the winner is announced…who else is gonna be there? That being said, I find this particular body of work very intriguing…any of you who’ve read my comments here know I’m a huge fan of the black and white, but the substance upon which the story is based is unnerving and a necessary social wake-up call. “Things,” tangible or imagined, which make us uncomfortable as moral, sane people, are easily slid under the carpet for others to deal with. These swept up people reside in the dark…whatever circumstances brought about the situation, it only worsens when mental illness becomes a factor.

    I imagine that this must be a difficult subject matter to tackle, and one upon which it must be hard to separate your energy from the energy and stagnation that surround you in such an environment. For this, Jenn Ackerman, I applaud you. I would have a hard time immersing myself in an environment such as this. Thank you for sharing this story.

  134. Kathleen Fonseca


    haven´t read your comment yet but want to say before you fly away that i have sorely missed your wonderful heartfelt comments, always so articulate and expressive..welcome back!!!

    big hug

  135. jenn..
    an interesting subject and well researched, from reading the text.
    i agree that text is an important part of this work, and think that neither the text nor the photos alone would tell the whole story. the text can be more specific regarding what happens and the photography acting illustratively can illustrate the claustrophobia.. the stark conditions and in places the desperation.
    it is interesting that you have chosen what is perceived to be ´one of the best´ institutions, and i guess that moving forward would entail gathering photos and research from many other institutions.. which are far from the best.. and that is the point at which i think this project could become even more powerful.. however there is obvious merit in continuing within the walls of a single institution also..

    it is a difficult problem to solve, no doubt.. how do the inmates need to be treated? what happens to them next? and of course there are no answers demanded of you – it is not your job to find solutions just as it was not paul grahams job to remodel the benefits system in the uk or paint the offices himself. (http://www.paulgrahamarchive.com/beyondcaring.html)

    as to the photos and a crit.. on first viewing i thought there was repetition.. to many wire strengthened windows and through the door photos.. at first i thought that these could be edited out over time as more shots were taken.. and then looking again i thought about the claustrophobic conditions and the stale, repetitive surroundings.. and i concluded that it is in part this repetition and the mind numbing blandness of the place which has actually lent such strong feeling to your photos..

    whether you are awarded the epf or not i look forward to seeing more about the story and hope that your photos inspire someone who has the means and ability to create solutions to act.

    whatever these pathetic, misguided and ill treated human beings have done, there ought to be a base level of care which, even if it cannot treat them, does not make their illness any worse.

    governments need to be judged on the basis of how they treat those at the very peripheral edges of it´s society.. perhaps more than how it treats those in the center.

    oh… and of course it would be wrong to write without placing the word JIM in there somewhere :ø)

    good luck jenn

  136. ¨I will not be wasting my type and thoughts on sucking in the negative energy of certain discussion, which neglects to succeed in this initial purpose.¨

    quite right..

  137. Johan Jaansen

    Herve, I think that you should have used the word ‘you’ with the word ‘we’ in your last comment. Because judging from your first replies to Jim under this same essay, you have just been as guilty of being drawn into Jim’s vortex as others have, including myself.

    A lot of us can be accused of overreacting to Jim, but that is natural as quite often the photographer is not online themselves to defend themselves against Jim’s absurd accusations.


  138. jim is just like a cattle prod.. you can spend your life walking into it, getting electrocuted and complaining or just navigate around it..

  139. nr. 16 is a very touching, sad and eloquent pictvre.

    this essay succeeds where the first one fails, to me, it makes me want to see and know more.

  140. I love this site but I must say the past few day’s of comments makes me want to go and make photographs
    instead of read about them.
    From both essay’s there is great work that inspires me as a photographer.

  141. Amazing to get the access to be embedded in the institution and increadibly brave to undertake such a project. A really strong and disturbing set of images that show the workings of prisons and institutions involved with caring for the criminally mentally ill.

    I imagine the inmates/patients within these units are perpetually irrational, disruptive, violent living a life that is so far removed from so called normal life that entering the units must be like diving into a nightmare and your photographic treatment helps portray this.

    I am glad you clarified this was in one of the best psychiatric units because it emphasises the scale of the problem. It could have been “relatively easy” (I use this in the lightest possible way) to just concentrate on the shock value images but you have clearly taken time to show the compassionate side and the difficulties involved for the staff.

    A great subject and a great essay.

  142. Hello.

    Found some time to go through the essay again.

    02. The word “down” on the sign.
    07. The face at the cell window jumped out at me this time.
    10. Communion.
    11. Noticed the inmate’s name this time.
    16. Basic human communication. You wonder, when the majority of physical contact you have is violent or supressive, how difficult non-violent communication becomes.

    From the caption to image #05: “…security can’t be a stranglehold on progress.”


  143. Pingback: Finally | Finally Friday - An Emotional Memorial Week

  144. ALL….

    i do not know if Jenn Ackerman will jump in here and respond to some of these comments…this is her choice to make….

    just a quick comment on Jenn’s semantics for the text…any misunderstanding of her wording could easily be fixed with a respectful suggestion by any good kindly newspaperman to please just add two commas or take out one word….OR by blasting her for what was only a simple copy editing job…in any case, done…Jenn’s meaning was obvious to any rational reader, but copy editors are there at newspapers and magazines for a reason…i have seen stories run through literally a half dozen professional editors/readers, and still end up in print with some kind of tech error..this does not make it right, it just makes it human…accuracy theoretically rules in the press, yet probably not a single newspaper or magazine comes out EVER without a few misplaced commas…

    however, this is not the real issue i see….

    the vagaries of human nature certainly manifest themselves in many ways here on our forum and we all know how wildly they can swing…or, if we did not know it before, we sure know it now!!!

    i think the net, because of it’s immediate access to many who otherwise are never heard, allows for some of the worst aspects of human nature to surface….one could be discouraged by this “lowest common denominator” effect if one did not take the time to read all of the words by those who actually stopped to think and write with aplomb and decency ..actually decency is one of the tenants of good journalism too right along with properly applied commas….

    i suppose one could theorize that if someone were really unhappy with their life, they could find a spot on the net where they can RELEASE frustration or get the ATTENTION that they obviously are not getting elsewhere…

    reader freedom to write whatever pops into their head after a bad day at the office, offending many with sheer nonsensical rhetoric, serves not a single person…for example, i am quite sure that even small newspapers select the “letters to the editor” based on logical reasonable decorum….this has nothing to do with criticism…..this has to do with respect….some are given freedom and fly, some take their freedom and squander…..

    well thought out writing, comments, and criticism will always be welcomed ..honest tough criticism has a home…

    but, it is a strange irony for me to be publishing what i think are some examples of fine photography and then allow a self destructive rant in the same space…

    i have thought many times about moderating comments, but we lose with that too i think….i suppose the theory of many is simply “well, nobody has to read the comments”…true…for those who enjoy the feedback of so many who write with care i guess we will just have to “self edit”….skip over some, and read some….if anyone has a better idea, i will take it…….

    skip forward 15 minutes….

    damn, it is almost 6am!!! light hitting Manhattan so spectacularly..but, i went to bed early..10:30pm .deep deep REM and then Anton calls at 1am and now i cannot go back to sleep….i just edited with David Bowen and one of his students who just saw me online..lots of good vibes here friends…more good than bad….like life….i always wonder why things just are not perfect and everybody perfect…..and then i look at myself in the mirror and decide quickly to cut everybody else a whole bunch of slack!!!!

    new day…all ok

    cheers, david

  145. I needed to run this essay through several times before I started to ‘get it’; the images run too quickly for me – I need to absorb the text and then relate the images to my understanding – I think that, for me, this would normally happen the other way around so these images are doing something different.

    I’d like to congratulate Jenn on her work in what must have been extremely demanding circumstances.

    BUT… I’ve been away from Burn for a few days and feel disappointed by some of the contributions to this thread – the animosity doesn’t help the conversation. I’m not sure how I would feel contributing work to a forum if I knew I was going to get panned.

    I’d like to remember that this is the work of emerging photographers – and the emergence of creativity is a fragile process. I’m not up for uncritical, gushing praise but these guys have worked hard and offered their vulnerability. That surely deserves respect.

  146. :ø)

    always more good than bad..
    everyone here is responsible for what they say and WHO they interact with… listen to everyone of course, but do not feel compelled to respond to all.. it´s not selfish to ignore.

    respect.. it is respectful to all readers here to sometimes let your silence speak and simply leave some to their struggle here.. whatever their struggle might be.

    the more placid this lake, the more rewarding for us all as MORE people will join in..

  147. Hi Jenn. Congratulations! This is great….I skimmed through all of these comments and don’t really feel like responding to anyone in particular so I’ll just give my 5 cents.
    1. These are very good documentary photos and I don’t think anyone can doubt that. I normally don’t like comparing photographer’s work, but I see Paolo Pellegrin’s eye here….and he is one of the best in working in hard social situations. Look at the 1st photo or #8. These pictures go beyond editorial news photography. They set a mood…they have a soul…the viewer is sucked into many of the images whether he or she wants to be or not…sometimes into a dreamlike state.

    2. The issue of getting access whether it’s illegal or not…who cares..This is a horrendous situation that should not exist. It is serious health care and social reform that needs to be improved in the U.S….The causes of mental illnesses need to be looked at seriously…not all of these people are born ill (this is a sub-topic that I want to talk to you more about Jenn….I don’t think isolating people in cells, shackling them up and giving them medications are the solutions..

    3. If she gets the grant great for her. Look…all photographers are constantly on a balancing act about getting funding, getting known, getting published etc. If Jenn cared about trying to break into the gallery scene and sell high $ prints I doubt she would have picked this topic.

    great job Jenn…did you send this to Mads and the gang in Denmark?


  148. Erica, you are too funny! :)

    “It seems you are using this forum in an abnormal way and I would feel remiss if I didn’t ask you – do you need help of any kind? This is a community that was born from relationships and mutual concern and respect, and if you are in some form of mental/emotional distress as it seems you may be from your writing, let us know, we’ll try to help, really.”

    I’m a pretty normal, well adjusted guy. Happily married, go to work everyday, shoot photos, play really terrible blues guitar and just have a lot of fun. You’re not going to be very successful trying to psychoanalyze folks over the Internet. Might want to find another avocation. Just to put your mind at ease. :)

  149. I think the photos work fine when included in the long text editorial piece on the photographer’s website. I don’t think they say, by themselves, what the photographer says they say. I found this same disconnect in another essay on her website, purporting to be about the effect of winter on miners. The photos really didn’t say much, if anything, to show that. It was as if you shot some photos of miners families and then thought up some text to hopefully unify the photos.

    The photos presented here can’t stand alone. They need to be surrounded with a lot of text, a lot of analysis, and an extensive look at the alternatives. The cause you are championing is a complex one. The photos are dramatic. They illicit a gut reaction. This is an outrage! Someone needs to fix this! But “this” is too big a problem.

    If you want to continue the project, zero in on a few of the individuals. Spend a lot of time with them. Get to understand why they are where they are, whether their specific illness is resolvable, what that resolution would look like. Get to know them as people, not just icons. Tell us about that. This story is not going to stand on photos alone. You have a beginning in the editorial piece on your website. But you need to do heavy research as background to understand all sides of the issue. It’s not going to be easy. Once your angle becomes clear, access is going to get far more difficult.

  150. Jenn, I’m not going to get into semantics, punctuation or give you a sub edit, I read your statement and though I saw your work before in PDN a while back the photographs have lost none of their power, My Mum is a counsellor and has done work with prisoners and she wrestles with the same issues and concerns, some of the guys she deals with would be considered absolute scum by most and it’s probably a fair judgement.
    But she leaves herself and her preconceptions at the prison gate and does her job as I’m sure you had to produce such a significant body of work.
    And let’s talk about the role of photographer in these situations for a bit? There have been criticisms of Jenn and others in previous essays of somehow cashing in and exploiting the misery of others, but doesn’t someone have to be there?
    How are any decisions going to be made that will secure an outcome if no one shines a light on the plight of others? I think some are forgetting the old saying of @Don’t shoot the messenger@ when critiquing the content of a few recent essays on Burn, the messenger is sacred , the messenger should be untouchable yet often I read pointless and egotistic criticisms about the photographers ethics , values and motivations and it shits me to tears.
    Jenn I’m sure that some of the prisoners in your essay are absolute fiends but I for one felt like I was slapped across the face after looking at your essay, and that the whole point of the excersise , isn’t it?
    Great job, well done.

  151. “the messenger is sacred , the messenger should be untouchable”

    This is a scary concept. Especially in cases of special access, even if the photographer is not, someone is likely molding the message. We all bring bias to our work. Jenn has stated her bias. She is not a neutral observer. She believes these places are inhumane.

  152. Please, pretty please, can the next finalist choose to have comments deactivated. P L E A S E

    Just so we can all focus on the work and take a breather from this banter ^

  153. And she’s done a good job at pointing that out! I never said the messenger couldn’t have a point of view, how would you think you could manipulate the access she was given?
    And why is it scary?
    We all know about photographs that have been made in manipulated situations but it looks to me that the photographer has documented what was happening in front of her and the fact that she had special access is a telling one , because it looks like the authorities who are immediately in charge of this situation are at a loss to find a way to turn it around, the best access is often provided by bureaucrats /public servants who are at their wits end as to how to fix something that is going so spectacularly wrong right before their eyes, you can only put out so many study papers , go to so many meetings to figure out that some major head kicking needs to be done , Pictures kick heads !
    One thing this essay does not need is more words to go with it.

  154. Conversation:

    I know. I want someone to protect me from myself! I can’t help myself but read them, but Jimmy my friend, you have a domineering tone to your comments. Sorry everyone, I tried. I really did, not to get involved any further. Goodnight & Good morning.


    Jen, if you are reading this I think you reveal a closeness and a personal approach to this work. Scary stuff, just to watch.

    I think you have organised your work well, researched your topic thoroughly and still managed to shoot with emotion as your primary guidance. Without picking individual works, the essay as a whole (what is most important) is cohesive and very well done.

    It is obvious that you are at a level with your work to have sufficient confidence to continue with it in a way that you will decide. And that is definitely better than listening to people’s advice who you don’t even know.

    Great work.


  155. Glenn, I was responding to your words that the messenger should be untouchable. I’m not sure what your response has to do with that.

    The photos have no context without text. What do you do with them? Would you buy a photo book of these images? Hang them on your wall?

  156. Sean, pixels on a screen can’t have a “domineering tone.” We tend to read things into posts that are not there. I sit here calmly posting and sipping coffee, and Erica thinks I’m a raving madman in danger of harming myself.

  157. Waking & sleeping throughout the night my mind kept going back to yesterday’s long exchange of opinions posted here on Burn. I found myself trying to figure out what might have set off such a roller coaster of responses. And then I recalled how I’d felt while looking at Jenn’s essay here and the documentary film on her website. I’d felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach, like I wanted to cry but no tears would come. I felt horrifed and terribly sad for both the inmates and the guards who were caught in this desperate situation. Neither my experience working as a psychiatric social work student in a psychiatric inpatient hospital nor my visits to an inmate on San Quentin’s death row had prepared me for what Jenn’s camera had captured. Most discouraging were my feelings of hopeless- and helplessness.

    I share all this only because I think it might offer a bit of insight into where many (not all) of yesterday’s run of comments came from. They may have seemed to be about text or ethics or purpose or motives or money, but I wonder if they really were. I’m coming to believe it was all about the power of Jenn’s photos to make us feel what her subjects were feeling. I think we were left reeling with feelings that we didn’t know how to express so we just took out our frustration on one another. This just validates the success of her work.

    Hopefully things have settled down now that our feelings aren’t quite so raw.

    And yes, friends, I am well aware that many of you will blow this off as another of Patricia’s “say-nothing” comments. That’s OK. I just thought this perspecive might help a few of us to see things in a different light.


  158. Sorry Jim I should get my posts sub edited , I think that the pictures need minimal text in the context of this forum . As for what I would do with them ,I have a lot of interesting stuff on my walland they would fit in just fine, sure you could put them in a book and hand them out with wordy reports , but I just think that they are strong enough to stand on their own in the discusion of Mental Health , not all discussion is made with words.
    They hit the gut faster than words.

  159. Patricia, most people don’t experience everything on a deep, personal level as you do. I don’t think I could survive if I did, since there is no effective response I can make to change most things. How do you let go of those feelings and move on without life being a serious of heartbreaking reactions?

  160. O.K., Glenn. They hit you in the gut. What is your personal response going to be to resolve the problem as a response of that kick in the gut?

  161. JENN,

    First, congratulations on your selection. You have chosen a very difficult project and managed very well to give that feeling of entrapment, of being locked not only inside a cell but for these men, but also being locked inside their own bodies… I always, like most I am sure, get that feeling of tremendous disconfort just looking at images of psychiatric units, be at a hospital or in a jail in this case. I have also had that unbearable feeling looking at the work that Mary Ellen Mark has done in some of the psychiatric hospitals or the work of James Naghtwey in Romania with children with physical and mental disabilities. Nothing more scary for me than to loose the control of your mind… That discomfort in me just looking at your work, seeing these men “locked up in their cells with nothing to occupy their minds but their own demons”, means that it is very powerful. You sort of do not feel like looking at it but then, you cannot forget it… I am not sure ultimately what hope, if any, is inside you that ultimately led you to focus on this topic and bring it to our attention. It does certainly wake up our conscience, creates the un-ease but then it is not clear what there is to do either with these criminally insame men who cannot be let outside. No easy solution out there I am afraid, except maybe showing more humanity, hoping it would make a difference…


  162. ALL –

    it is very easy to have a civilized discussion: the problem is the people reacting to the disrespecting commenter, and lowering themselves to that same level.

    please, just don’t do that. just ignore… even if you feel like you “should” jump in because you want to set things right or you feel offended… resist that urge. this, and this alone, is key to solving this particular problem in this particular situation. (besides moderating or switching the comments off, of course)

    what do you think will happen if someone makes 3 or 4 or 5 disrespectful comments and everyone else just ignores it while going about talking constructive criticism themselves? leaving those comments to stand alone, without context?

    right… they lose their value instantly. any reader will immediately identify this sudden lone comment as meaningless. Problem solved. it becomes like spam in your email.

    But every time even ONE person makes the mistake to take the bait and jump in, it’s all been for nothing and we have to start all over again.

    so please, again, whatever you do, DO NOT INTERACT with disrespecting or demeaning comments. let the comment stand like a sore thumb, ignored by all. it’s the only way.


  163. I really think that Jenn’s involvement with this issue not only photographically (she was a key note speaker at a conference on mental health according to her www site) makes obvious her sincerity (and authority) to tackle this challenging subject. Not many do. Especially so thoroughly.

    I would also like to add that photographically the work speaks to me with a strong authorship. This is also important to develop/maintain, and can often be hard to achieve with a subject as hard (emotionally and physically) as this one.


  164. Geography is the deciding factor James , I take care of what I can , put pictures out that might add to the discussion and cover stories in a way that hopefully leaves people knowing a little more about the way of the world than before.
    Enjoy your morning , Late here !

  165. ANTON / ALL

    “whatever you do, DO NOT INTERACT with disrespecting or demeaning comments. let the comment stand like a sore thumb, ignored by all. it’s the only way.”

    I think this is now the correct approach..I just want to be clear that this isn’t about freezing anyone out..it is about addressing the behavior which is problematic and unproductive.

  166. Jenn Ackerman – excellent work from my perspective. David contemplates perfection and everybody’s state of perfection – your essay speaks volumes in answering the rhetorical pondering.

    Specifically on the essay – very Magnum-esque (and that is a big Big BIG complement and yet a terrible burden to live up to). I think the essay can stand on either or both legs (being the text or the image or both).

    I was thinking about the power of the image recently and surmised that the most powerful story can be imagery but it is not necessarily truth. Eddie Adams speaking on the 1969 Pulitzer image of a summary execution in Vietnam commented “Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths”. What is truth is the moment in time that you captured the images – nothing else. What the truth can be missing is context. Context can be infinitely more difficult to capture.

    Photographs often need a title but don’t necessarily need text.

    Good luck in your emergence efforts.

    Best wishes,


  167. Anton,

    brilliantly put.

    I too have gone through the threshold of being incensed and responding with knee jerk reactions but it leads only to frustration and a vortex of lowest common denomiator.

    The trouble is it is only because we care, but you are right if such comments are “left to stick out like a sore thumb” they will ultimately be self distructing.

  168. ANTON / ERICA / ALL

    “whatever you do, DO NOT INTERACT with disrespecting or demeaning comments. let the comment stand like a sore thumb, ignored by all. it’s the only way.”

    “I think this is now the correct approach…. I just want to be clear that this isn’t about freezing anyone out… it is about addressing the behaviour which is problematic and unproductive.”

    I couldn’t agree more.

    Anton has provided the antidote to this recent infection, it’s now in our control to stomp out this behaviour; it’s clear if we keep going on this way it’s materially undermining the health of our future.


    all of you are sensitive people with photography which reflects exactly who you are and the world around you….at the same time, none of you are afraid to call it straight and state your opinions clearly but without rancor….two of you i know personally, two of you i have never met but read a lot of what you write…

    pixels on a screen do indeed reveal….

    words on a page have changed the course of history, recorded that history, made some fall in love, ended relationships, educated the masses, and in fact are the single most powerful purely communicative tool man has yet developed…the invention of writing and the cultures that developed it account for all advances in mankind so far…no need to go on, because i think you get my drift….

    “Patricia, most people don’t experience everything on a deep, personal level as you do. I don’t think I could survive if I did, since there is no effective response I can make to change most things. How do you let go of those feelings and move on without life being a serious of heartbreaking reactions?”

    the sentence above is simply the saddest thing i have ever read here ….no analyzing necessary…surely not the words of someone happily ,calmly, sipping coffee and posting….the exact same statement was made several weeks ago if you may recall….

    the net has allowed mankind to do what mankind always does..form community..our most natural built in genetic desire , along with food gathering, home building and sex….survival of our species being the primary end goal…none of us can do all things necessary for survival, only in community have we made it….you know how to do one little thing , i know how to do another, and presto we have food on the table…

    so by any anthropological reckoning, this is a real community, pixels or no pixels…..as in any community there are those who might not seem like they fit in, but have a deep need for this community more than one might imagine….what may appear as rash drum beating, might be a cry of pain and need….

    i am going to get hammered over the head for sure for what i just wrote, but somehow i have the feeling you four understand….however, getting it and accepting it are two different things…you can understand motive, but still not accept behavior…monitoring behavior is a constant process of society and community….there are always some who want to destroy what others have built….most likely subconscious….

    i think the best thing we can do is to continue to speak our minds as effectively as we can ….continue with our work on the highest levels that we can personally do and realize also that most of us are making mistakes and misstatements most of the time…i do not know about you guys , but my percentages for “doing it right” are low….hence community to help keep me balanced…..

    learning by example is what got us where we are, is what often takes us down, but ultimately serves us well in the long haul….

    peace, david

  170. Jenn,

    What a comprehensive web site you have! Not only for this project, but all round. Great presentation.

  171. IMANTS…

    ouch!! you killed me …but, yea i get a little carried away at times….sorry, it is just my natural search for explanations….since i never really get any, i just pick up the camera and go take a picture…an easy way to remember stuff and makes me feel good…..not much more to it….


    cheers, david

  172. DAH..you are right..

    Tough love works..A perfect example:

    Misbehaving toddlers are required to sit on the Naughty Chair whilst everything else in the household carries on around them, without their involvement.

    If your child misbehaves, explain what he’s done wrong, tell him that his behaviour is unacceptable, and warn him that if he misbehaves again, he’ll be put on the Naughty Chair. Make sure your voice remains calm, not angry, and use a low, authoritative tone.

    If you don’t step in with the warning before too late, you end up teaching him that he can get away with it for a good while before there’s a consequence.

    Do not keep issuing warnings. One or two is OK, but if you keep going, he’ll soon work out that you’re only issuing empty threats and for that reason alone, you’re not going to follow through.

    If he comes off the Naughty Chair, put him back on using gentle but firm movements and keep putting him back onto the chair. It might be 100 times one day, 10 times the next, then two, but he will eventually stay put.

    Once your child has completed the agreed set time on the Naughty Chair, ask him to apologise, and when he does, praise him warmly. Say ‘thank you’, go back to what you were doing and forget about the incident. Younger children can find it hard to articulate clearly at times. If it sounds like sorry to you and they mean it, accept it.

  173. ….. yea the photographers that trust their gut feelings have the ride of their lives they just do it………….. woops better not go there

  174. Kathleen Fonseca


    A brand new day, the dark has passed..so many great comments, observations, sincere efforts to understand and articulate..ANTON, DAH, PATRICIA, DAVID B., ERICA, and anyone/everyone else who has been striving to restore the decency and respect (not to mention the compassion for the actual tormented subjects and caretakers in this situation) that this essay and Jenn deserve..i could cut and paste incredible quotes from so many here to show just how touched i am by your intelligence and wisdom but it would take up an entire page, so just a thank you all so much for bringing the sunlight back to a very dark forum.

    best to all

  175. David, all…

    I think I’m on record as having an opinion about civility…

    Here’s a thought. To me, Jim’s civility infractions are relatively minor. He’s usually on topic, but he’s brusque, dismissive, provocative and pretty sure he’s right all the time. Not a pleasant mixture sometimes… but who is anyone to judge?

    I think he provides a valuable service. There is always going to be some jerk at a gallery talk, or a lecture, or a meeting, some know-it-all who wants to prove something, and won’t let facts stand in the way of his argument.

    What I read here is frustration on the part of others… at the inability to make a persuasive defense of their ideas, maybe hurt feelings getting in the way, who knows.

    But it’s good practice for dealing with this type of person when talking about images, which is a very slippery subject.

    I’d say the key to cracking the Jim nut is keep your cool, argue articulately, calmly, clearly and logically… if you care to at all.

    It really doesn’t matter if you change Jim’s mind (ain’t gonna happen), it’s about clarifying your own ideas and learning how to think, reason and write about them.

  176. a very moving piece.
    the title fits the collection like a glove.
    the image of the inmate holding the gloved hand of the officer is now etched in my memory.
    great work jenn!

  177. Mike,

    we’re not talking about squashing out a person, we’re talking about squashing out unhealthy behaviors, i can’t see how you could confuse those things.

    No specific person’s name has been mentioned, until you mentioned one now.

    if you’ve found it easy to assign the dissatisfaction with irrefutable unhealthy behaviours to a specific person that should tell you something Mike.

    So unless you are arguing for promoting the behaviours, i don’t see why it’s relevant to argue for a specific person, unless this is part of a past crusade of yours.

    Kind Regards,


  178. Mike,

    let me add some more context, as i don’t disagree with the need for better articulation to move the photographic agenda along and we do need an impetus for that. I think this is the spirit of what your endorsing, no?

    my concern is the impact certain behaviours have on the degree of vulnerability a community is willing to surrender, and vulnerability and humility are key ingredients to learning.

    so yes, we should have a Darwinistic influence, but it doesn’t have to be administered by a nasty rabid dog.

    for example, from a forum, from a past life:

    there’s still loads of people that think {name your favourite place} is just the ‘web’ and the people on the ‘web’ are just ‘cyber personalities’,… so with this thinking in mind you ‘don’t’ need to take things related to {name your favourite place} too seriously, but that thinking has really got to stop.

    {name your favourite cyber-place} is a ‘real’ place and the personalities that frequent {name your favourite cyber-place} are ‘real’ people… if you don’t think so, ask yourself what percent of your life’s interests are exchanged in electronic vs. organic ways these days?… if you still think these electronic exchanges aren’t real, then you really have to wonder what percentage of your life is spent ‘not’ being real… so for the love of gawd, please keep electronic exchanges as real as you would in the real world, i suspect we’ll have a society built on them someday…

    And i think that’s my dilemma Mike, you wouldn’t last a second being behaving this way in real life, people would just walk to the other end of the bar or leave what ever area these behaviours or erupting.

    But maybe i’m just old-fashioned.

  179. The interesting thing about all of this reaction is that she has a very good chance to win. The piece is published on her website. She’s won an NPPA Best Photography of The Year award for it. And now she is in contention for another award. Surely she doesn’t need all these defenders. Probably could care less about my opinions. This isn’t her first time around the block.

  180. “Patricia, most people don’t experience everything on a deep, personal level as you do. I don’t think I could survive if I did, since there is no effective response I can make to change most things. How do you let go of those feelings and move on without life being a serious of heartbreaking reactions?”


    Jim, it IS hard to live with all your senses open to the pain of others, especially those whose pain you feel powerless to alleviate in any way, be it through systemic change or personal healing or both. I suspect this is why most of us stay numbed out in one way or another. I think they call it compassion fatique.

    As for myself, when I decided–and it WAS a personal choice–to look at the world with both eyes and heart wide open, I went through a period of severe suffering. All my defense mechanisms had been protecting me for a reason: reality can and sometimes DOES hurt, badly. But if I didn’t go to the dark places, I was missing out on the light at the other end of the spectrum. To feel pure joy I had to allow myself to feel gut-wrenching pain as well.

    It was out of this pain that came my deep commitment to peace activism. No I wouldn’t stop wars or injustice or the horrors of genocide, but I would be doing what I could. DOING being the operative word. No longer did I allow myself to sit back and complain; I went out on the streets, wrote letters and articles, drew pictures that were published globally, took photos and posted them all over the net, gave talks (even one in Beirut, Lebanon), organized groups, wrote lyrics to songs, gave interviews, and once or twice sat in front of the White House and Congressional office buildings by myself for weeks at a time. In essence I brought every fiber of my being to the work for peace.

    As I say, wars went on, people still got killed and tortured, my country’s government still made decisions that caused untold suffering at home and across the globe. But through it all I could live with myself because I knew I was doing my part to stand up publicly for different, more humane ways of living together on this small planet.

    And now I let my camera be my mirror and window on the world. I can only hope that if my eyes and heart remain open, so will my lens. And that what people see in my work will in some way benefit the whole.

    Thank you, dear Jim, for asking this question. I hope my sharing has not taken too much time away from Jenn’s remarkable essay and work. For she obviously lives and feels and does what she can to make a difference…even in the face of all that she sees in the prisons. Because of her we are given the opportunity to see, feel and hopefully do something ourselves. For each of us, that “doing” will be different, but together we CAN make a change.


  181. Omission:

    “and once or twice sat WITH MY HAND-LETTERED & PHOTO-BEARING SIGN in front of the White House and Congressional office buildings by myself for weeks at a time.”


  182. ALL….

    we are now preparing letters to all who applied to the EPF so that you can know one way or the other if you are in the running….

    the delay in doing this was caused in part by one finalist voluntarily dropping out because this photographer chose to no longer work on the project for which application was being made…a VERY honest photographer…thanks, you know who you are…..the other reason is of course the sometimes slow task of double checking the credibility and veracity of each applicant and their story, permissions etc etc…….and with one dropping out, we had to go back through quite a few second choices and quite a bit more research…

    this whole process has been daunting to say the least…Anton and i literally have had to go through and do all of this by ourselves with not even an intern to help…..no complaints, just a bit of an explanation of why we are a week behind….when the dust settles i hope all of you will be proud of the selection….

    i would also like to point out that the judgments of work here has nothing to do with perhaps previous judgments of the same work….i had no clue, nor did Anton, of any previous recognition of work submitted…with so many photographers to view, we did not research each and every one to see what had happened to the essay in previous awards…however, really strong essays often are awarded several grants , so this is not an unlikely scenario at all….as a matter of fact, i cannot remember any strong essay not winning multiple awards….

    photographers who are not finalists are still high on our list for future publication and possible commissions…i mean, there was a lot of truly fine work submitted……a lot….mind boggling actually…a real surprise to me….

    while obviously i am proud of the EPF and thankful to the donors who made it possible, the EPF is just a small part of what we want to do with BURN….it came up as an interesting possibility on Road Trips and just segued over here….however, at this very moment , i would say i will never do it again…a whole lot of work and a constant defense of doing this whole lot of work and at a personal financial loss to both Anton and i to boot….but, time may change my opinion…as i always say, a good nights sleep and a hot shower remedy many things….i do at least have hot water….

    thank you for your patience…..letters should go out within 24 hours…should i call Anton and wake him up????

    cheers, david

  183. Now that I have some time, I really want to dive into this essay. I really like it, and I see some incredible potential for growth if the subjects would allow.

    I’m not going to go image by image, but I do want to call out some that I think deserve some conversation:

    #4 – I usually don’t like alot of motion bur, but here it works and it is appropriate. I’m guessing it was done on accident and doesn’t feel forced. It adds to the chaotic feeling of the moment.

    #6 – Nice show of the isolation.

    #7 – I was about to dismiss this one, until I saw the other inmate looking out the door…keeping a watchful eye.

    #9 – I’m really digging the first guy with the shield. You can almost see a zoned-out look on his face—another day, another dollar. What’s with the guy with the video camera?

    #10 – This is a real keeper. My favorite by a long way. The look on the inmate’s face, trying to absorb everything the guard is saying. Classic.

    #13 – This was the only real miss for me. The application of the medicine and the reactions of everyone while that was taking place would be better for me.

    If the constraints of the project would allow, I would really like to see some in-depth profiles of some of the guards, inmates, and even the warden. So much more to see, but I like what I’ve seen so far.

  184. Pete Marovich


    Wake the sleeping bum up!

    Will he be at Look3?

    I am sending you an email with the link to the book photos for you to look over. Be on the lookout for it please!

    Thanks David

  185. a HUGE
    to you
    it is so appreciated…
    out of the ash
    a phoenix…

  186. Hi Jen, complicated subject you begin to work. Terrible pic 16. I don’t know that in USA are this places, mix of correctional and neuropsychiatric. In all countries and families nobody knows what to do with mad people. I worked in some places with mental ill people and see several works of others photographers. I know is very difficult emotionally to work in that places so, if i add the prision i imagine is a lot more. The other difficult issue is to fall in good pictures but at the cost of some kind of exposition of the person. I see you don’t shot or edited “golpes bajos”, sorry, don’t know how traslate in english. I esteem that. Congratulations, hope you can find a way to continue your proyect.

    And a note appart about others replies in this and others works. Hey people, common, chill out. Before put a comment please put yourself in the shoes of the photographer that her, his work is presented. If any thinks can do it better then do it. For some reason we are viewing their work and they have good intentions so be constructive. I don’t mean repress discordant comments, i detest the too honey replies all the time too, but one must write if add something. Sometimes is like that people that have nothing to say arrange to meet in all kind of replies forums in the web.

  187. WONDERFUL news and thank you for all you and Anton have done to make this a possibility for all of us..this should be, and is a time of great gladness and mutual celebration..

    Perhaps you should post this on the EPF thread too for anyone who may not catch it here..

  188. Powerful stuff. I can’t even imagine working in this situation. My younger brother is deeply ill from bi-polar and lives his days locked in a cell of his (well, the universe’s) own making. Fortunately he’s never done anything violent towards others, only himself. Sadly we have very little contact now as his condition and my need to help drove me to illness. You can’t make a person who his mentally ill seek treatment or change their ways. It can bring you to your own edge. I now tend to evade or ignore people with mental illness. Probably not right, I know, but it’s a form of survival for me.

    So I salute the photographer’s bravery for going someplace I could never tread. It’s a tragedy, the way the mentally ill are treated in this country, offenders or not.

  189. David (ah):

    both alejandro and jenn’s work are powerful, committed, rich work. there is nothing anyone need apologize. 2 great selections and i look forward to seeing the last 8. who knows, maybe the pressure and the sequential releasing (rather than naming all at once) created the weirdness, but there is nothing anyone need be apolgetic for. I am certain all 10 (and the one who dropped out) photographers’ work will be inspiring and I HOPE that once the fog-of-war dies down, all will be able to just relish in the thing that unites each one here: the love of telling stories with pictures. I think i warned you 2 weeks ago ;))))))

    raise high the roofbeam, seymour ;)))


  190. Herve, I think that you should have used the word ‘you’ with the word ‘we’ in your last comment
    Johan, I think you are being dishonest, and there is no need for dishonesty on this forum. Just quote me completely in the future, thanks …

    I wrote: ‘that’s me too’, with that ‘we’!

  191. BOB BLACK…

    i think all grant giving creates weirdness…

    however, most grants to not have the potential recipients in close personal contact with the creator of the grant as we have here…we are all in day to day conversation, so i think whatever negatives are always there anyway, are just magnified because everyone here knows me, knows much about the behind the scenes process, and there is a personalized dialogue that is the hallmark of BURN…

    i am not apologizing for anything…

    i might explain why were are late in notifying all of the applicants , but i have no apologies to make for the finalists chosen based on their work as submitted…..

    the double checking of veracity of story and place and permissions is another thing that i want to make sure is 100% on and i did defend Jenn’s syntax, but her work stands on its own and i stand by it……..i will write an overall synopsis of why and how the finalists were chosen at the end….and i am sure your writing on the whole package of finalists will be THE piece to read…

    many thanks for your continued support as an editor…i have some new plans, but i will call you this afternoon to discuss….sorry we have been out of touch, but it has simply been a function of all that is going on with EPF, the gallery space, etc etc

    cheers, david

  192. im working hard to put the words together to describe my reaction to the essay. the images left me speechless. they’re powerful with the very strong aftertaste of despair in front of the tragedy. it’s a very difficult subject, and Jen, you were very privileged to be able to witness the suffering of these people and now being able to share it with others. im not a documentary photographer but after seeing this type of work, i sometime have a desire to do the documentary work too, with the hope that it will encourage people to help or at least will move something inside them to be more expressive in their sympathy to others’ suffering.

  193. marina – do it :ø)
    it would be fascinating.. enjoying your and bobus´s visual mumblings as i do..
    either of you would, i´m sure, create work more impressive than the vast majority of documentary work.. understanding as you do the capability of snaps to MOVE.
    it´s something that many neglect in the documentary world.. myself included on occassion.. favoring instead the ´game´ of hunting moments..

  194. David, we may not always show oiurselves at our best, granted, but lowest common denominator?

    Anyone, if you have not done so, go on youtube,, choose any little movie with some ethnic content in it, see that black people become suddenly niggers and monkeys again, see that someone thai calls cambodians fucking idiots and monkeys. I put a little movie on a gujarat wedding, and half of the comments (now erased) were that Gujaratis are stinky… you guessed, monkeys. Never mind the posts not dedicated to the P.’s work, you, my friends on BURN, are one of the most decent bunch of debaters on the net. As simple as that.

    Also: reading the comments again, of course it’s Ok to simply be horrified by mental illness, but remember that Jenn is a specific work to help with the problem of jailed mentally ill criminals. I’d applaud an EPF grant that would not just be judged on photographic talent, but to help promote a cause in dire need of public exposure.

  195. Herve we can always find a lower bar to make any our efforts seem extra-ordinary, we don’t approach our efforts with photography this way, so why should we with our manners?

  196. David

    You mentioned a number of posts back that you had considered moderation.
    I think, in it’s ‘normal’ application moderation, on this site, would be
    Most of the posts/posters here that would benefit from moderation are not the typical posts
    from around the web that contain foul language,verbal abuse, etc.
    Most center around personal discourse and retaliatory shots that waste massive amounts of
    bandwidth and, in my opinion, do a disservice to the featured photo or essay.

    Is there not a way to moderate, via site software, simply by ‘moderation.
    By that, I mean, a quota system. If each individual only had the ability to post a finite
    number of times per thread then, I think,it wouldn’t suppress anyones opinion or legitimate
    defense of their opinion but it would force those craving attention to really consider when
    to, and what to, post.

    Keep a hot thread in the Dialogue section going for those who wish to post on an ongoing
    This would allow a venting space, in public, but would, at the same time, remove the lions
    share of the useless back and forth that has ruined so many threads

  197. David (ah):

    even this grant stuff makes ME weird…believe me…ask Marina ;))…she’s the level-headed one in the family…i guess that is what herve sees as my incorrigibility ;)) (u r right Herve, btw :)) )…maybe because i didnt want to write my usual long, poetic, love-letter supports until the end, cause it might look odd (as an entrant too)…..i will write a summation after Look3, just as i did last year, and try to do justice to both the work/photographers and the process as a participant…anyway, the weirdness, there is no way of getting around this, — my own reactions have been so complicated (wanting mrs. b’s stuff there), and wanting to see friends work, unknown work…im just as human, jealous, happy, all that ;))…but i think, no matter what happens, when all fades away, we’ll be left with something more basic: not the ‘winners’ and ‘loosers’ but with the idea that photography is still vibrant and that one’s life and one’s work should not and cannot be defined by others evaluations but by the commitment and investment and endeavor to which every person works their asses off….and from that, you will have accomplished something rare and wonderful for the photograhic community: the elevation and support of photography…in this sense EVERYONE wins (as i said yesterday)….next year, if it happens, let Bruce G handle it ;)))…that way none of us can complain ;))))))….i wont be home today (other grand deadline and family date): we’ll touch base next week….

    david (bowen) :)))))…yes, just wait to you see what that other ‘documentary’ photographer does with work :))))…i’ve been aching for the last 2 months, it’s that beautiful :))))


  198. panos skoulidas

    u sound crispy…:)
    maybe we could ALL talk and comment,
    ONLY in the Dialogue section and no comments under essays…
    just like the ROADTRIPS….
    but ,
    dont you think that since BURN is a magazine ALSO to be read…
    this current interface of comments under essays generate more comments..
    therefore more food for thought?

  199. One post per poster. It must be directed at the essay. It can’t be use to respond to another poster.


  200. panos skoulidas

    Jim you reminded me of Stalin with your last one..
    God bless u man:)

  201. Had posted this earlier but don’t think it got through – apologies if its now a duplicate.

    Jenn Ackerman – excellent work from my perspective.

    David contemplates perfection and everybody’s state of perfection – your essay speaks volumes in answering the rhetorical pondering.

    Specifically on the essay – very Magnum-esque (and that is a big Big BIG complement and yet a terrible burden to live up to). I think the essay can stand on either or both legs (being the text or the image or both). I was thinking about the power of the image recently and surmised that the most powerful story can be through imagery but it is not necessarily truth. Eddie Adams speaking on the 1969 Pulitzer image of a summary execution in Vietnam commented “Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths”.

    What is truth is the moment in time that you captured the image – nothing else. What the truth can be missing is context. Context can be infinitely more difficult to capture. Photographs often need a title but don’t necessarily need text.

    Good luck in your emergence efforts.

    Best wishes,


  202. Panos wrote,
    “dont you think that since BURN is a magazine ALSO to be read…
    this current interface of comments under essays generate more comments..
    therefore more food for thought?”

    Panos I like the comments under the essays but think there has to be a more useful
    way to keep the posts more accurately focussed on the image/ essay in question

    Every physical magazine you pick up, is also meant to be read or viewed, but we are not
    subjected to every readers personal minutia at the end of each article

  203. Jim Powers wrote,
    “One post per poster. It must be directed at the essay. It can’t be use to respond to another poster.”

    Not at all. Could be 5. Could be 10 posts. Each uses them as they see fit but, once they’re
    gone, they’re gone! You’ve got how many in this thread? 40-50?

  204. Hey, if they want to limit everyone’s posts, I’ll be glad to abide by that limit. Even if it is one post per essay.

  205. Photograph number 3 sets the scene for me. The caption reads “it’s like walking into a different world”. I see this photograph and statement as the lead into the essay. Some of the photographs may seem disjointed, repetitive, unfocused – but given the subject matter the technique works very well. I like this essay and look forward to seeing more. As the photographer has stated, some of these people are in the wrong place and will, eventually, be released. It would be good to know what happens to them; hopefully something positive.

    A lot of comments here. I’ve not read them all but a lot of energy seems to have been expended discussing the text. Sad really.

    As the photographer states, this subject has been covered before in other countries than America. When the subject is at home it becomes much more personal.

    Congratulations Jenn for telling the story,


  206. I have subscribed this photosite for a month. I thought you people are discussing all kind of photos stories. Since i am also crazy about turn-based all real-time photos stories, I had great expectation on this group. But you all f_cking people have only big mouse. Many people follow the someone’s notes (totally not related to photos stories), and those f_cking messages gave me f_cking headache. I know you all have freedom to speak or write, but you people are doing too much. Since old man says “NOBody scares shit to avoid, but they avoid because its f_cking dirty. I will stop subscribing this fucking photosite. If you have any other words, fuck you. Thank you.


    This has been an imported argument, originally by Sokwoo Lee, Sep 23 1999, 11:00 pm – YOU’RE ALL FUCKIN BIG MOUSE

    At least Godwin’s Law hasn’t yet materialized…! :D

    On a serious note, I like the essay, especially #7, and I do not think locking up ANYONE in a cell is a solution to a criminal problem (or a problem of any kind), whether they are insane or not.

  207. Great, Simon. We’ll let the penal system know where they can send Charles Manson. I’m sure they would like to find him a good home.

  208. JIM..

    great idea!!! best idea i have heard…..you CAN be constructive!!! damn !!

    ok, how about this: from now on under the photographs presented, either single or essays, everyone gets one comment..one shot at it…to be directed ONLY at the work presented….all others deleted…that is moderating , but self moderating…

    for those who want to chit chat, wrangle, tell us it is their birthday, they can do that in Dialogue…not moderated except for trolls with expletives etc. which is already a rule…..make sense?

    i will do it…perfect ….simple…brilliant…why in hell did i not think of it???

    cheers, david

  209. ALL….

    Young Tom Hyde is going to start doing some text editing for us..his background is in newspapering, so he will be on the case with accuracy, credibility, and making sure we have all pertinent information on any essay….the more popular BURN becomes, the more submissions we have, so the more help i will need to make sure there is 100% cred with everything we publish….

    right off the top, Tom will ask each photographer for a complete bio to be published under every essay…a separate link even from the photographer website…a clear concise history of each essayist…we will also do this retroactively with the essays which have been published…so, if that is you, please prepare a one or two paragraph bio…a statement of your overall intent as a photographer should also be included….

    at the very same time , i am putting Kathleen Fonseca in charge of checking/evaluating ethical issues which she thinks may arise from our photographers…..Kathleen thinks well…writes well…..and she is a first class mom….all good attributes for somone to make sure we do not inadvertently make any ethical and/or moral errors…..

    Kathleen and Tom will of course work with Anton , Bob and me to make sure we have BURN right out there on the leading edge visually and yet right at the top with the best on credibility…

    Joe and David Bowen will also be coming on board in various capacities which are to be next discussed in a London pub…..Mike Westfall is going to be presenting ideas on the history of photography, an area where many emerging photographers are weak, but eager to understand the historical context of their work…i want Akaky soonest for another picture/word essay combo and might make him a columnist regular…Sidney perhaps the same..Bob always and Joe as a potential columnist…David B wants to edit…good….i have three additional women in mind for other jobs( the biggest jobs of course!!), but have not discussed anything with them yet, so i should not announce now….

    i think the above implemented will alone will eliminate a lot of problematic conversation and lock us into the high ground of publishing….

    so, good news good ideas all around this afternoon…..sunny skies…hmmmm, do i hear thunder in the distance???

    cheers, david

    p.s. i will formalize all of this in a proper post, but this is enough to chew on for awhile…

  210. BRIAN…

    why can’t you still have a dialogue??? just one click away and you can go at it….yes, in a perfect world the dialogue could be, should be right under the work…but, if you go through the archives you will see it rarely happens….mostly, writers go off topic, get in a war with someone else, and it takes us three days, phone calls, behind the scenes emails to get everything straightened out so we can go on..sorry, but i cannot do that anymore…

    i want to save my energy for mentoring those who need it, choosing and editing essays, and getting photographers on commission to produce new original work…those should be MY priorities and play to my strengths …..putting out comment fires is NOT what i want for my life…and i have been trying like hell to figure out a way to moderate without censorship…this is the way…..

    i do want community..that should be obvious…with this new setup we will still get everyone’s most concise opinion on the work….whatever we sacrifice will be worth it from my view…and again, you still have Dialogue for whatever you want to do with it….this way , whoever comes in from mars and is looking at Burn for the first time, will see and read coherent material clean and simple…no reason for it to be any less provocative…actually, perhaps more provocative because those unknown writers out there who are scared to death to jump in on a Burn chat (there are many), will now have a voice….seems to me more pluses than minuses ..

    more thoughts on this from you?? you may well have another point…let’s get it all out now…


    cheers, david

  211. DAVID

    Brilliant plan! Thank you, Jim, for suggesting it. Looking forward to reading pure photo-related comments under each essay/selected photo from now on. Sometimes chaos has to reign before clarity can be found. Dialogue can now become just that.


  212. DAH…
    The only “problem” I see with the one post rule, is that we will not be able to change our minds—or so it could seem… say I’m the first (or fifth) to comment on the next essay and I write a thoughtful piece about what I like or don’t about it, and after me a wiser commenter comes along and provides a more enlightened review of the work at hand… and I’m all “wow… I totally missed that…”… I will not be able to alter what I’ve already said ’cause I’ll have used my one comment already…

  213. THODORIS…

    yes, but this way you just must say what YOU really think based on your impressions and your knowledge…it surely will make you think carefully before you write…..i have not seen very many examples of where someone changed someones mind anyway…that does not happen..what happens is that two or more just dig in their heels and start getting personal….counter productive i feel…..if you have more to say later and/or want to do artistic combat with another writer, you still have what most magazines ONLY have and that is a normal blog..Dialogue…..

    it was great talking to the other day and i look forward to seeing your prints…

    cheers, david

  214. It is probably the best solution—the one post that is…
    you asked for any thoughts on the subject and… well… that was mine…
    It was great talking to you too… I’ll let you know when I send the print…
    Night from Cyprus…

  215. I’m very interested to see the one hit wonder in practice..it will save us all from a lot of back and forth..my immediate response was that if this is to be really fruitful it will be important to have the photographers reading / writing as much as they can, maybe that can be in the agreement loosely with being published? My instinct is to want to try to answer people’s questions if I know (or think I know something) helpful, and I think it may be frustrating not to be able to do so, but I am sure the frustration will be much less than it is now at the state of affairs and in the service of the community as a whole and the photographs, which is paramount..when do we start?

  216. I would love the photographers to be in on the comments…but, thinking about it, photographers like Jenn, for example, who have already won awards for the same essay, probably see little advantage in discussing it. Doing so won’t benefit them in winning the EPF, so why put yourself in that position. Some of these photographers probably have little interest participating in forums, anyway.

  217. Richard Andrew

    JUst from a critiquing standpoint, just being honest with my opinions… the work is very decent, but disconnected. The essay by itself doesn’t flow very well, and as Jim said before, none of the images really stand alone or speak of the issue at hand here. Just because the photographer is close physically to her subjects, it (in my opinion) is not reflected in a gripping way that I like to feel when I look at documentary work. Toodles.

  218. Erica McDonald

    Doubt that..photogs are passionate about their work and in a forum with respectful questions, I think they’d want to be as informative as their schedules allow..but of course some will want the work to speak for itself, and that is understandable.But discussing and defending are different things of course.

  219. To clarify, I’m not dissing the photographer. It’s just that while these essays are, perhaps, new to us, the photographer has likely been living with them and showing them around for a year or two, and may be talked out about them.

  220. Richard Andrew

    By the way, Jenn, if you are reading this, I think you are good photographer, don’t get me wrong… I just think I need to feel like I am there, that’s all.

  221. Richard Andrew

    For example – I just watched it again- Except for #1 and #16, the first and last, none of these images speaks anything about mental illness in U.S. prisons. These images could be from any institution or holding facility. Great subject though, I hope you can spend more time there… ok, I’m done.

  222. ERICA…JIM

    i always invite the photographer to speak…Alejandro did not because he has no electronic communication until june 4….i do not think that because Jenn has won other honors, she would not be willing to speak..i think she will speak…however, when i called her to double check on prison permissions, she was on vacation and seemed to want to stay there…if you think about it , the photographers speaking themselves has always been quite good…and if these photographers are answering questions or addressing issues, i think this will work out nicely….let’s please at least give it a try….not much to lose…

    cheers, david

  223. RICHARD…

    i think if you look at most essays, you might think that only a few pictures literally told the whole story….if cocaine was the theme of Eugene’s “Cocaine Blue, Cocaine True” how many pictures actually showed anyone snorting coke??….most were pictures of an environment where cocaine was used, but could have been related to an entirely different subject if the title and text did not have us set up for a cocaine essay….this is one of my favorite essays, so i am not pointing out a weakness for Richards, i am just saying not every picture has to be explanatory in a literal way to the story…

    cheers, david

  224. David, Mark and Jim:

    What a great idea. I think it will compel us to think about the work and focus our thoughts, while eliminating the tit-for-tat that we do so well. Thanks!

  225. Yea I sorta agree with you Richard it is more about a personal reaction to the environment than a documentary about mental fiascos. I also see it as very much a work in progress and somewhat not fully resolved, but this is what the grant is for I suppose time and money to complete at least a portion of the intended story. So at this stage it is just a collection of images………..
    On a site like this a photographer should make themselves available otherwise some of us feel as if we are pissing in the wind with no direction to go but back in our faces

  226. Jenn, a great subject, yet so hard to reveal with images. I think you have made some great headway with this piece. It’s clear that you want the viewer to feel the isolation and desperation of the subjects. But it is also clear that we can never or should never want to be in their shoes. Thank you.

    There will never be a definitive story about the insane, we can only imagine what they experience. But Jenn, you have taken a point of view and done a wonderful job. I can’t say that what you have illustrated will change the system but thank you for taking us there.

    Now how does this find it’s way to a public forum. All of the time spent documenting your impressions of this gap in care is without a voice if it cannot be seen by others.

    DAH, how can work like Jenn’s find an outlet to make a difference? You are presenting some wonderful stories that need to be seen…to make a difference. It’s time that Burn become a voice for the issues that you allow us to see. We look and comment on the quality and content of work, but it is hollow without a wider audience.

    Let’s encourage talent but when we can bring shortfalls in humanity to light, let’s broadcast!

    Comment 312, if I’m lucky


  227. Johan Jaansen

    Herve, I was perhaps reading too much into the first part you wrote, with less reference to the second part – it just came across as condescending. Now, in retrospect, I was at fault. I was NOT being dishonest, so please understand that. So, please accept my apology in advance.


  228. Gordon Lafleur

    So,,,what the heck is going on here? 300 plus comments, endless blah blah blah, one comment rules? Has this grant thing made everyone go a little crazy?

    I love burn, but it seems to be burning up here. Can’t we just talk about photographs, photography, without getting all weird.

    DAH, I sense huge frustration. Go get a nights sleep. Take some deep breaths. Step back, take a break. I love what you have done here. No need to make any drastic changes just yet.

    Love ya all. Enjoying the ride, but let’s slow down a bit here.

    Jenn, again, love the work, people like you amaze me.

    Gordon L.

  229. Jenn – your essay is a psychological thriller and it is not because of the “location” nor the “subjects” – you can arise the “thrilling” factor with your photographs and it shows on your web site for the other stories.

    Congratulations on being selected as a finalist!

  230. PAUL…

    yes, it would be nice to reach beyond just a photographer based audience…we have to some degree…even some of our writers here are self proclaimed non-photographers…however, to get that wider audience would require doing some things that i probably would find distasteful from a marketing standpoint…the best audiences in my mind are always small…like the New Yorker audience…about the size circulation wise of a mid-sized newspaper….250,000 or so ….reaching that many people on the web is pretty easy, but whether the web based audience is the same as a print audience is not really known….so much is being invented now on the web….but, who knows what it takes to resolve issues with stories in the press..we have discussed this at length with no real conclusions….stories like Jenn’s are always deemed important because they deal with social issues…the assumption is always that the public has a right to know and the press should inform them…what they do with that information is very difficult to quantify….


    i will get a good nights sleep…i am not generally frustrated at all….figuring out the importance of and the monitoring of comments is the only occasional rub….when the comments go awry, some say to me “do something”…as if i can do anything….if i monitor in the traditional way, it seems like censorship….do you see the one comment rule as being a restriction??? isn’t the problem of unlimited comments that it takes us way off track and creates a lot of frustration among the writers?? most magazines are comment free under the presented material and have a blog in another place…if we have an intelligent critique under the essays and then have our Dialogue section for normal blogging where you can talk about whatever you want to talk about, why wouldn’t that work?? interested in your answer….you , for example, usually post one thought provoking comment about what you think of the work..then, i another writer says something with which you disagree, you will bounce back in for a rejoinder…but the rejoinder is just that ..a rejoinder for the sake of rejoinding (no such word)….what is wrong with just having that original comment only?? do we really learn from tit for tat??

    you may have missed what i have theorized before and that is there are so many in our audience who are quite literally afraid to speak..i hear that every day in person and in private e-mails….they are afraid of being ridiculed or attacked…our comment section is not seen as a friendly place nor a place of thoughtful discussion by 99% of our readers who do not comment…..that is just the truth…if you can think of a better idea to carry on without going to this new system, i am all ears….

    i am sure you have noted that the idea for one well thought out comment per reader per essay came from Jim who for sure posted more comments than anyone….

    cheers, david

  231. DAH –

    It’s as good a system as any, the one comment rule. If this were a company run by hundreds it’d be a different story. It may be restrictive to some, I actually learn a lot from arguing, but it doesn’t mean that’s the way it has to be here. You guys deserve some peace-of-mind, I’d say, as much as we deserve a space to comment.

    Especially since we still have it, in the appropriate place — we can carry on our tit-for-tat in the other dialogue space if we wish. No biggie.

  232. Yesterday (in contrary to the day before yesterday) I had good wine at diner ( a great vin de Graves from France) then I had two majejuana joints, then make love with the woman of my life…. so my judgement is, this morning, tottaly positiv…but who cares….

    Poor finalists…. ready to read 320 comments? Ok for 100000 dollards it’s ok…blablabla

  233. If you decide to moderate a forum, then you have to make rules and someone has to enforce those rules. It’s easy to make rules. It’s really hard to find human beings to objectively enforce them. Kind of like the arguments anti-gun folks aim at carry-concealed laws, if you give a guy a gun (the power to censor posts), he’s eventually going to use it in a way that many observers will consider personal and subjective. And then you’ve got to set up court and try the case. My read on David is that he doesn’t want to be in that position.

    Most people, while they might think freedom is a good idea, find out when they start posting in forums that they really don’t like it. What they really want is adventure with security, a box they can roam around freely in, but one to protect them from ideas with which they disagree. That’s easy when there’s a few friends sitting around David’s loft talking photography. It’s impossible when you have an open door to 100 million people.

    I personally prefer the rough and tumble of uncensored forums. But you have to not take things personally to do that. You have to focus on ideas and not individuals. And our experience in the 3D world is to use personal attacks as weapons to quash those whose ideas are different than ours. You either have to be willing ignore personal attacks or you don’t want an open forum.

    That tendency we have to use ad hominem attacks to get our way is responsible for all kinds of social relationship problems. The personal attack is an effective weapon, but when used against those with whom we have ongoing relationships, it’s devastating. It results in families being torn apart, divorces, children and parents alienated.

    So what’s a forum owner to do? Many choose to moderate, and then arguments over the fairness of the moderation take over the forum and the forum owner’s time. So, the only real solution is to create an absolutely objective criteria. Everyone gets one post is absolutely objective. That post must address the the essay and not another poster is absolutely objective. David doesn’t have to adjudicate every decision and everyone gets to comment on the photo.

  234. panos skoulidas

    Lovely poem but you are
    in a different room, thread ….
    We are all in the “BUZZ ROOM”..
    Leave the essay alone…

  235. New format! fill in the blanks……
    The most intriguing aspect of this ______________ is the _________ _________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________. Unfortunately _______________________, but with a bit of http://etrouko.com.au/art/grant.jpg should help _________ ___________ complete this ________________ ________________________________ work

    It was fun

  236. So, imants, what would you suggest? I’ve heard words like “healthy,” “supportive,” “constructive.” What do these words mean? They are subjective. If I post briefly, and just say I don’t like the essay, I get shot at for being curt and dismissive. If I post at length, I get shot at for for being a prima donna and focusing attention on myself. If I reply to those who respond to my posts, I get shot at for being argumentative and obtuse.

  237. Richard Andrew


    I see, understand and take part in your view of this forum. When I was in college taking photography, my professor told us that during our class critiques, it is our duty as peers to be as brutally honest with one another’s work. It made us all pay attention to the fact that it wasn’t about the photographer, but more so the work. As a photographer, it disallowed me from becoming too big headed about my own images, the ones I thought were really good… and made me concentrate on the work itself. I agree that if praise is warranted, so be it. But a critique is a critique, and should be carried out honestly and without the perveriable cherry on top.


    it seems the one post per essay per person might work…if not, we go back to free for all…surely, worth a try…self moderated….and still only one mouse click away from total free for all over under Dialogue…the advantages will outweigh the disadvantages i imagine…we will see….i did not have time to actually count, but a quick skim of the comments under this essay by Jenn i think shows that about 20% of the comments actually had anything to do with her essay or her work…

    i also think limiting the comments to the work of the photographer published will bring out some heretofore silent readers…i do not know this, but i am guessing this based on personal conversations with and the e-mails i receive from the “silent majority”….

    please know that i went against the advice of absolutely everyone in the biz , both print and online editors, to have comments at all on BURN…..so, we can either prove them wrong or prove them right….your choice entirely….

    cheers, david

  239. A civilian-mass audience


    TO ALL,

    PLEASE proceed to aisle 2 BUZZ under Dialogue :

    EPF -Finalists DEBATES, hot links,birthdays, exhibitions …unlimited posting !!!

    LET’S give it a TRY !!! Good luck !


  240. My stupid opinion is to leave things here as they have been, from the beginning. Placing any limits on posting comments goes against the grain of BURN, as I understand it.

  241. What’s the photographer going to do…….

    Make the initial statement and then shutup shop?

    Respond to posters that have no right of reply?


    sit back and chuckle while sun bathing in the nude

  242. I’m breaking the one comment rule. BURN is a work in progress–still. Perhaps a healthy reminder is in order so that content can stay on track. In some ways I get a giggle out of some of the volleys but this “room” should and must concentrate on material presented, even with the occasional ethical wanderings that have a place in the dialog. Maybe there should be a “Sparring Room” to move or guide off topic threads. If I want to see a train wreck I’ll know where to go.

    Until then let’s just play nice.

    Over and out.

  243. To be fair, I doubt our comments are very important to many of these finalists. They are, so far, not beginners. And in the case of Jenn, has already won a major award for the same essay. And, some of these may not be front burner projects, just ones they hope to get back to. And, vacations are important.

  244. STOOP…

    let’s try it once and see what happens….

    i am not being very successful in explaining that there are absolutely NO LIMITS to placing comments….ok, one more time…NO LIMITS…..it is only the location of these comments that changes…so , let’s try one comment per person under the essay about the essay…..you can write whatever you want under Dialogue…

    one of the problems here is that you and others have no idea how many private e-mails i get when things here go “off”…it is against my nature not to respond to private e-mails….most of these concern the nature of comments on BURN….so, there is one whole conversation going on here at BURN and another whole conversation going on in my private e-mails, late night phone calls etc etc etc….the readers here hold me personally responsible for the decorum of our blog….

    it frankly takes my time away from the more important work of editing, mentoring , finding new talent, and looking for commissioned work for many of you…

    what would you rather have Stoop , a free for all here or me trying to find you just the right sponsor for your work???

    cheers, david

  245. JIM…

    it is not about it being important to the photographer published ..either finalist or in normal publishing of the work….it is about having something clear and thoughtful to read for those who either have never been to BURN or who automatically do not read the comments because they know an often senseless war is going on…

    cheers, david

  246. my 1 comment for the day:



    p.s. as a photographer who has published an essay here and who tried to center the conversation during that time towards the work and to keep a balanced perspective on all the conversations, and at the time, that was the longest thread (ironically, i NEVER get upset when my work is criticized as i find all conversation fruitful vis-a-vis work, even tributary or irrelevant comments, it all forms the same essential dialog: how to read work, how to engage with work, how to question, above all, your own ideas/reactions…, the weird thing is i only react when others are criticized–oldest brother syndrome), i think that the involvement of the photographer is key…but, this is a clearly personal decision and can’t be mandated….i think the original idea for burn (in private conversations dah and i had) was that it might be like a Photographic version of The Parisian Review: interactive dialog between artist and reader…that is what I tried to create when Bones was published and hope to do again when i publish an written-essay with a photo later this summer, but it only depends on what happens….i say, give the 1 comment/day a try…it’ll save me, alot of writing time ;))))…but it will keep the work focused…the only thought might be that if photographers participated, how then to follow up immediately….anyway, what’s wrong with trying…Burn is an organic/evolving thing anyway….let’s see what happens and then switch to the Dialogue dance floor…

    now, bring on new work :))

  247. Thus( I like that word) with the one comment rule there will be no interaction between the posting photographer and the viewers just a bunch of comments…………..geez a good bun fight between a posting photographer and the viewers is a worthwhile read in my books

  248. David ….

    no, sorry…i havent been looking every day, so i didnt know how long Jenn’s work has been up….seemed like a long time, i imagine an indication of the thread of words. i wont suggest again.

  249. that you and others have no idea how many private e-mails i get when things here go “off”…

    Maybe it’s where people should be given the one (e-mail) only rule?

    Seriously, people should know better and not make constant demands on your time, unless instigated by you.

  250. Ok, so here’s my one post on this work.

    There are some moving images in this story, but for me they seem isolated amongst the rest . Jenn is a great photographer, of that there is no doubt, but if she set out to produce a “riveting body of work that made the viewer feel what I felt when I was inside the prison.” Then I think she failed in my opinion.

    I’m full of admiration for her in getting access to this institution and getting images of any sort.

    What I’d like to know is will the publication of this essay change the mental health funding situation in any way? Will the essay help to bring about change?

  251. Cassandra Adams


    Allow me to premise my comments by saying that I have no background in photography, so I won’t attempt to address the technical characteristics of your piece. However, I am working on my PhD in clinical psychology and felt that you might welcome a different perspective.

    At the suggestion of a friend, I viewed the series of images before reading your introduction. I think the piece is aptly named and the feeling of being trapped is clearly felt in most of the images. I have to say that I picked up on the jail context much more quickly than I picked up your attention to mental health. That said, I also recognize the difficulty of capturing poor mental health via visual media without coming across as unoriginal or insensitive. Kudos to you for avoiding both of those pitfalls.

    My strongest critique is that, as a photographic civilian, I was distracted from the impact of some of the images by trying to figure out what was going on in the picture. I realize that abstract visual media can sometimes have a greater emotional impact than a corresponding concrete image. Given the resonant themes of isolation and loss of control, I imagine those images were an attempt to put the viewer in the inmates’ shoes. However, in this piece, the unfocused, abstract images felt like a jarring transition from the crispness of your other images and pulled me out of the piece instead of pulling my farther in.

    Thank you for your careful attention to this topic. Best of luck on your journey.

  252. DAVID Harvey. I might be repeating whats already been said or suggested but, if there is a problem with this comments page being distracted off topic from reviewing that particular body of work, by say, copyright issues or wether something is art or documentary, then could there be one other forum that deal with issues that are of hot topic for many of the photographers and editors who love this site so much, which could be highlighted say like a link page so anyone whose interested in an issue thats been brought up can go to that different page and discuss it there, leaving the essay page purely for reviewing photographs.
    you got your work cut out for yourself Dave

  253. Sorry. i think you’ve already addressed this DaAVID. So please forgive me missing it. No need to repeat yourself again.

  254. Hi Jenn,
    A different world you have exposed here. A completely different world in this fanciful world. The story bears a social appeal to keep abreast from drugs and the future life of the addicted people are so sorrowful and harsh. The social rejection is stressful and the society must have supportive to accept after treatment.
    Thanks Jenn for exposing such world in America.
    Hope for your best luck in EPF.
    Partha Pal

  255. Hi Jenn.
    Yes. You’d think there’d have to be a better way. A much better way than allowing politicians to buy votes by being hard on crime to the detreatment of of society as a whole.
    Really worthy story to uncover and show.

  256. Haven’t gone through the thread comments on this, but without the text it’s not easy to figure out the story here.

  257. DAH – To be clear, I wasn’t criticizing you for wanting to keep the comments directed towards the images at hand, the shame is that the dialogue keeps going off the deep end.

  258. DAH:

    “ok, how about this: from now on under the photographs presented, either single or essays, everyone gets one comment..one shot at it…to be directed ONLY at the work presented….all others deleted…that is moderating , but self moderating…

    for those who want to chit chat, wrangle, tell us it is their birthday, they can do that in Dialogue…not moderated except for trolls with expletives etc. which is already a rule…..make sense?”

    Actually suggested this several weeks ago — and not just to keep Jim from being beaten up — but to focus on the essay.

    At that time, you didn’t believe that many of the comments were not germane to the essays and nixed the idea. Good to see that you understand what the current comments section has become — one with more comments on the commentors than on the essay itself.

  259. Jenn expose ourselves to a world of nothingness.Birth is pain to them ,the pain their mothers felt during childbirth,they carry the pain throughout their whole life.Pictures also potray the pathos,the unbearable life of being a human.

  260. Pingback: blog of still-dancing.com » Trapped - Mental Illness in America’s Prisons

  261. A while ago I was introduced to a media piece I was extremely impressed by, the use of video, audio and stills was impeccable and really set the standard to photojournalism media pieces. The piece was trapped.

    It inspired me, I’m studying photojournalism [sorry excuse this self indulgent stuff for a moment] and as part of my course we had to complete a video assignment. Initially my thoughts were that video had no place in photojournalism and it should be kept to people with different skill sets. After watching trapped I felt the opposite. I was infused with ideas and endless possibilities (and I don’t mean being a copy cat and heading to my nearest mental hospital… shooting fish in a russian is the probable bandwagon I’d be more likely to jump on!)

    But when viewing trapped on burn, I got nothing. context felt lost, the images didn’t have the same power and knowing it’s original medium, it felt short and completely unfinished. To put it simply, it had in no way the same impact as the original multimedia piece.

    These criticisms however aren’t as much directed towards jenn’s work, but more the platform this grant is operating on.

  262. Pingback: Jenn Ackerman. Trapped: Mental Illness in America’s Prisons « Prison Photography

  263. Pingback: Asylum … Hospital … Prison « Prison Photography

  264. Pingback: self portraits | jennalouisebondyear2

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