The following artist statement by Imani Tudor, an undergraduate photography student at Parsons School of Design, is part of the States of Incarceration’s exhibit in New York: “New York: “Rikers Island, NY 11370: In Plain Sight“. The body of work is one of many that poses reflects on the question “How do you see Rikers Island?”. Learn more about the exhibit here.
Imani and several other undergraduate students conducted interviews with formerly incarcerated men, volunteer teachers, prison officials, and other people tied to Mount McGregor to tell a personal, human story about the struggle to survive life behind bars in a medium-security prison. They hope to encourage a dialogue about the best way to help incarcerated people overcome the challenges they face behind bars and as they reenter society.
As a documentary photographer, I’m strongly inspired by identity. I’m interested in the mentality of poverty, and the reasonings behind why the Black community is so highly targeted by the criminal justice system. As a person from this community, I’ve been documenting certain aspects of criminality that I see in my everyday life. Hip-Hop sprung out of these communities as a coping mechanism, and a celebration of culture and lifestyle. It has always been the voice of the youth and the voice of the black urban community. Using the neighborhoods of Bed-Stuy, Bushwick, and Crown Heights, historically poor Black Neighborhoods in Brooklyn, as my center stage, I sought out to document subtle aspects of criminal activity, or stereotyped indicators of criminal behavior.
Using rap lyrics as a way to decipher these images, I hope to speak on a broader sense of what it’s like to be persecuted as a young black person in this country. The lyrics, handwritten by a child, signifies the conditions in which young black men must grow up fast in order to survive, and the beginnings of the street hustle mentality.
Criminalize Brooklyn is a collection of images mixing documentary, text, and appropriated imagery to shed light on the conditions Black people in this country live under.