5JoshBegley 2MarkStrandquist 6SteveDavis

Exhibition dates: April 1 – May 28, 2016
Opening reception: Friday, April 1, 6-8pm (Introduction by the curator at 7pm)
Check below for additional public programs.


Josh Begley
Brown v. Plata
Steve Davis
Alyse Emdur
Robert Gumpert
Paul Rucker
Mark Strandquist
Kristen S. Wilkins

Curator: Pete Brook

No country incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than the United States. More than 2.2 million people are currently locked up in the U.S.—a number that has more than quadrupled since 1980. But sadly, the lives lived behind bars are all too often invisible to those on the outside. Prison Obscura, curated by Pete Brook, sheds light on such experiences and the prison-industrial complex as a whole by showcasing rarely seen surveillance, evidentiary, and prisoner-made photographs. The exhibition encourages visitors to ask why tax-paying, prison-funding citizens rarely get the chance to see such images, and what roles such pictures play for those within the system.

Alyse Emdur’s prison visiting room portraits from across the nation and Robert Gumpert’s recorded audio stories from within the San Francisco jail system provide an opportunity to see, read, and listen to subjects in the contexts of their incarceration. Juvenile and adult prisoners in different workshops led by Steve Davis, Mark Strandquist, and Kristen S. Wilkins perform for the camera, reflect on their past, describe their memories, and self-represent through photographs. The exhibition moves between these intimate portrayals of life within the prison system to more expansive views of legal and spatial surveillance in Josh Begley’s manipulation of Google Maps’ API code and Paul Rucker’s animated video. Prison Obscura builds the case that Americans must come face-to-face with these images to grasp the proliferation of the U.S. prison system and to connect with those it confines.

Pete Brook is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and curator interested in social justice and the politics of visual culture. He writes and edits Prison Photography (, a website that analyzes imagery produced within, and about, prisons, with a focus on the American prison industrial complex.

Download the exhibition catalogue here [PDF].
For more information on Prison Obscura click here.

Prison Obscura is a traveling exhibition curated by Pete Brook and made possible with the support of the John B. Hurford ‘60 Center for the Arts and Humanities and Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery at Haverford College, Haverford, PA.

Images [L-R]: Anonymous, courtesy of Steve Davis, Incarcerated girls at Remann Hall, Tacoma, Washington, reenact restraint techniques in a pinhole camera workshop, 2002; Josh Begley, Screengrab from ‘Prison Map’ ( of tiled satellite images of U.S. prisons; Mark Strandquist, image of a dam, made in response to a description provided by a prisoner in Richmond County Jail, Virginia.
Prison Obscura illustration below right by Ellen Gould.


* Miss Rosen, “Curator Pete Brook Looks at the Prison Industrial Complex from the Inside Out,” Crave Online, May 12, 2016

* Kathleen Dolan, “How to Serve Those Who are Serving,” Thru Magazine, May 4, 2016

* Megan Burbank, “Prison Obscura Shines a Light on Art Behind Bars,” The Portland Mercury, April 20, 2016

* Fiona McCann, “Shooting Time: An Exhibition from U.S. Prisons opens in Portland,” Portland Monthly Magazine, March 31, 2016

RELATED PUBLIC PROGRAMS:Prison-Obscura-Cell-Illustration

All public programs are free, open to the public, and take place at Newspace (1632 SE 10th Ave), unless otherwise noted. Additional event information is available on Newspace’s website.

* Opening reception: Friday, April 1, 6-8pm (introduction by the exhibition curator at 7pm).

* Offsite Panel discussion: Can Images Counter Mass Incarceration?: Saturday April 2, 2-4pm: Moderated by Pete Brook, Curator of Prison Obscura. Location: Native American Student and Community Center, Portland State University (710 SW Jackson St).

* Discussion: Re-Envisioning Justice: What is between Reform and Abolition of the Criminal Justice System?: Sunday, April 24, 4:00-6:00pm. This event will take place at Newspace (1632 SE 10th Ave.)

* Community Discussion: The Ethics of Photography: Thursday, May 12, 6:30-8pm, organized in collaboration with the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education and ASSEMBLY: A Co-Authored Social Practice Conference. This event will take place at Newspace (1632 SE 10th Ave.)


Stay tuned for additional related public programs:



Check our website for pricing and registration information.

* Expanding Photography: Discovering the Stories Behind Your Work: May 9 – May 23, 6:30 -9:30 pm | Instructor: Gregory Parra.

* Education Lecture Series: The Screen Politics of Public Projections: May 17, 7:00 – 8:30pm | Instructor: Dr. Abigail Susik.

* Build Your Own Pinhole Camera: June 5, 12:00-4:00pm | Instructor: Pete Gomena.



Address: 1632 10th Ave, Portland, OR.

Gallery hours: Monday – Thursday 10:00am-9:30pm; Friday – Sunday 10:00am-6:00pm.

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For press inquiries, contact Newspace Curator Yaelle S. Amir at or 503.963.1935.


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