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Chandra McCormick & Keith Calhoun

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New Orleans natives Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick have photographed the Louisiana State Penitentiary for over thirty years. Also known as “Angola Prison” and “The Farm,” the prison was founded on land that was previously several cotton and sugarcane plantations.

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Slavery: The Prison Industrial Complex

Who’s that man on that horse, I don’t know his name but they call him boss


Archival pigment print Courtesy of the artists

Calhoun and McCormick’s searing photographic series “Slavery: The Prison Industrial Complex” documents the lives of men incarcerated at Angola, the vast majority of whom are Black, as they continue to work the fields once tended by people who were enslaved. The photographs provide a glimpse into a penal history that continues to hide in plain sight.

The series reveals the lingering aftermath of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which abolished slavery with an important and infamous caveat: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Featured Artwork (Tab to skip section.)

Angola Rodeo

Guts and Glory, Men Wrestling the Bull


Archival pigment print Courtesy of the artists

McCormick and Calhoun have also photographed the Angola Prison Rodeo, which triumphantly claims to be the longest-running prison rodeo in the United States. Thousands of visitors buy tickets to the bi-yearly rodeo, eager to watch the people imprisoned in Angola ride angry bulls, act as rodeo clowns, and perform bareback horse riding. 

Within the context of Calhoun and McCormick’s larger exploration of labor conditions at Angola Prison, these photographs offer indictment of the industry—and spectacle— created around the rodeo.

Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick’s work is also featured in the following Barring Freedom study guides: Histories and StructuresCarceral Visuality

Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick are documentary photographers and collaborators, both born in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Their images have been featured in ApertureThe New YorkerThe New York Times; and the book Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers, 1840 to the Present, among other esteemed publications. Their work has been exhibited at renown international art exhibitions including the Venice Biennale and Prospect New Orleans, and at venues including Art & Practice, Los Angeles; the Brooklyn Museum; the National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis; the New Orleans Museum of Art; New York University; the Philadelphia African American Museum, Pennsylvania, and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

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Suggested Reading

Alexander, Michelle

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

New York: The New Press, 2012.

Allen, Diane Jones

Lost in the Transit Desert: Race, Transit Access, and Suburban Form

1st Edition. London : New York: Routledge, 2017.

Davis, Angela Y.

Women, Culture & Politics

Reprint Edition. Vintage, 2011.

Davis, Angela Y.

Women, Race, & Class

1st Vintage Books ed Edition. Vintage, 2011.

Johnson, Paula, Angela J. Davis, and Joyce A. Logan

Inner Lives: Voices of African American Women In Prison

New York: NYU Press, 2004.

King, Robert Hillary, and Terry Kupers

From the Bottom of the Heap: The Autobiography of Black Panther Robert Hillary King

First Edition. Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2008.

Rideau, Wilbert

In the Place of Justice: A Story of Punishment and Redemption

Illustrated Edition. New York: Vintage, 2011.

Sudbury, Julia, ed.

Global Lockdown: Race, Gender, and the Prison-Industrial Complex

1st Edition. Routledge, 2014.

Woodfox, Albert

Solitary: A Biography

New York: Grove Press, 2019.

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