They are Us and We are Them

HMP Low Moss by Jenny Wickes

Photographer Jenny Wicks has spent the past year as artist in residence at the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research in Glasgow observing the spaces in which criminologists do their work.

The result is two sets of work that Wicks' says sets about "exploring and unsettling key boundaries - between innocent and guilty, researcher and researched, us and them."

One set consists mainly of pictures from HMP Shotts prior to opening, as well as HMP Low Moss and Barlinnie, and shows clinical spaces which become the enforced home of those detained and the workplace of those on the other side.

"I have been returning to these places of cultural cliche and the images I've produced aim to demystify them and the work criminologists undertake," says Wicks. "Some of the images juxtapose the often-chaotic lives that occupy these spaces and contradict the harsh realities of prison life."

Start Quote

I decided to make images of prisoners, prison officers and criminologist, to challenge the boundaries between them and us; the point being that it could be anyone of us, under different circumstances, life experiences, a different set of opportunities, or not”

End Quote Jenny Wicks

The other piece of work is entitled, They are Us and We are Them: Portraits of prisoner, prison officer and criminologist. Using a large format (5x4) Wista field camera Wickes is seeking to recall the Victorian portraits of criminals that many believed at that time revealed the criminal trait or personality.

Her aim was to mimic the daguerreotype process used back then, limiting herself to one frame per sitter.

The mug shot itself is still a term that denotes some kind of criminality, or unpleasantness. "The traditional mug shot is a process (or space) where a person is automatically marked as a criminal (although not yet convicted), it is combative, accusing, dehumanizing," says Wicks.

Yet the work is more than simply a record or document as Wicks explains. "What I find interesting is the way that the mug shot, prison, the criminal justice spaces all strip away the complexities of that person and they then become part of a subset, in the eyes of others and significantly in their own eyes.

"They are no longer unique personalities and the 'self' is redefined."

The work, an interactive multi-media installation incorporating audio, fine art photography and object sculpture, is on show at the The Briggait Gallery, Glasgow from 27 February to 22nd March 2013 having been shown in scaled down form at HMP Barlinnie last year.

Segregation Unit by Jenny Wicks
HMP Low Moss: Orifice scanner and surveillance camera
They are Us and We are Them: Portraits of prisoner, prison officer and criminologist by Jenny Wicks
They are Us and We are Them: Portraits of prisoner, prison officer and criminologist by Jenny Wicks
They are Us and We are Them: Portraits of prisoner, prison officer and criminologist by Jenny Wicks
They are Us and We are Them: Portraits of prisoner, prison officer and criminologist by Jenny Wicks
They are Us and We are Them: Portraits of prisoner, prison officer and criminologist by Jenny Wicks

You can see more of Jenny Wicks' work on her website.

Phil Coomes, Picture editor Article written by Phil Coomes Phil Coomes Picture editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    @97 "... Public money should not be spent on art"
    Don't think that is the broad thrust here. Rather that an 'artist in residence' at a prison is not seen as an appropriate public expenditure. Also, that art is being perceived as having apparent talent and skill attached to it that the generality of the public would not be able to achieve. Clearly not the case here.

    The anonymity is irrelevant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    There are three main themes here:

    Everyone in prison is there because they deserve it. Obviously none of the people posting here have ever broken the law, or at least have never been caught.

    Public money should not be spent on art. Because there are countless private patrons commissioning artists today?

    The photographs are technically poor and I could do better. Really?

    All posted anonymously.

  • Comment number 96.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    .94 Andy

    The criticisms might be valid if people had seen the exhibition and the photos, but it hasn't actually opened yet so they are simply ignorance on parade. Second, I made no comment about how society deals with crime. I was suggesting a reason why people might object to someone reflecting on crime and punishment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.


    Another explanation for the negative comments is perhaps that this photographer is in fact not very talented. Had you considered that?

    Your comment about how society deals with crime - utter tosh!


Comments 5 of 98



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