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In Lorton’s Darkroom: A Special Exhibition in the Lucy Burns Museum

June 13, 2018 - September 16, 2018

In Lorton’s Darkroom
Lucy Burns Prison Museum (Building 2)

On View June 14 – August 12, 2018
Documentary Screening: At 2pm on Sept. 8, 9, 15 and 16
Reception, Panel & Screening: June 16, 2pm

In Lorton’s Dark Room is an exhibition highlighting the Lorton Photography Workshop, a program at Lorton Prison during the decade of the 1980s. Founded by photographer Karen Ruckman and supported by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the workshops were a unique moment in prison arts education. Administrators came to more fully appreciate the value of the arts in prison, and the inmates overcame distrust, coming together as a community.

The workshops created a safe space for the men removed from the stressful reality of prison life. They took cameras to venues in the prison school, gym, dorms, and workplaces. Journalists visited the workshop to share the craft of photography, becoming advocates for the program. Over time, the men developed portfolios that reflected a highly personal vision.

Having inmates tell their stories through photography brought new information to the DC community. The images presented a more complex story of incarceration. Prison Photography Curator Pete Brook says the Lorton program “reminds us to make space for prisoners’ humanity, as well as for environments that encourage the arts.”

When individuals change and grow, whole systems change. When we make the invisible visible, we grow in understanding as well as in compassion. The photographs speak to the need for diverse image-makers in criminal justice, and offer lessons the photography program contains three decades on.


June 13, 2018
September 16, 2018
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Lucy Burns Museum (Building W-2)
Workhouse Arts Center 9518 Workhouse Way
Lorton, VA 22079 United States
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