Shoot out: Outdoor exhibit holds post-prison photos • Brooklyn Paper

Shoot out: Outdoor exhibit holds post-prison photos

Shades of purple: This image Karen, taken at a shelter shortly after she served 35 years in prison, will be part of the 2018 “Fence exhibit” in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Sara Bennett

Go outside to see life on the inside!

A Park Slope artist will show off her photos of women who have been incarcerated on the Fence, an annual outdoor art exhibit that stretches the length of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Sara Bennett is among the 84 photographers in the exhibit, each with five giant photos on display until Sept. 10, along a fence that travels from Pier 5 to Empire Fulton Ferry Park.

Bennett’s images are part of her larger photo series titled “Life After Life in Prison: The Bedroom Project,” in which she documents the bedrooms of women who have been released after serving between 15 and 30 years behind bars for violent crimes. Showing these women in a location that is relatable to everyone helps to humanize them in the eyes of the public, said Bennett.

“Bedrooms are private spaces. For the women I photographed, allowing me and the viewer in is a way of saying, ‘I’m here, I’m a real person—look at me,’ ” she said.

Many of the featured women are still rediscovering their right to privacy, after decades without it. Bennett said her images showcase similarities and differences between life in a home and life in a cell.

On the outside: Photographer Sara Bennett says her series is an effort to show the formerly incarcerated as everyday people, creating a life post-imprisonment.
Joseph O. Holmes

“In prison, they are locked in, they can’t lock their doors, their possessions are limited, and they get moved around a lot—not because they want to be moved, but because the prison bureaucracy doesn’t want people to become too comfortable or stable,” said Bennett.

The photographer hopes her images can help people to analyze the stereotypes they hold about prisoners, and to realize that the formerly-incarcerated may be all around us.

“One of the reasons I wanted to show these images is because a lot of people have an image of what long-term women lifers look like,” she said. “People forget that a lot of them come home, have been back for a long time, and are not going back. Society forgets about them but they need to be part of the conversation.”

Bennett and several other photographers will discuss their work during a free public tour of the Fence on July 19 at 6:30 pm.

“The Fence” in Brooklyn Bridge Park (Furman St. between Old Fulton Street and Atlantic Avenue in Dumbo, fence.photoville.com). On display through Sept. 10. Free.

Proper situated: 51-year-old Tracey in her Queens bedroom, about three years after spending 24 years in prison. Stuffed animals are a common item in the bedrooms of women who spent decades confined, said Bennett.
Sara Bennett

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimon@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @AS1mon.

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