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One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana

In 1998 photographer Deborah Luster and poet C.D. Wright set out to produce a record of Louisiana's prison population through image and text. One Big Self is a document to ward off forgetting, an opportunity for those inmates to present themselves as they would be seen, bringing what they own or borrow or use: work tools, objects of their making, messages of their choosing, their bodies, themselves. The photographer has been commissioned, in a sense, by the inmates to make portraits for their loved ones—trying to ensure a balance between photograph and subject, to connect the viewer, whether mother, child, friend, or stranger, to the prisoner. The view is inherently personal.