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The limited-edition photograph Nine Years out of a Death Row Sentence (River) is by the winner of the 2014 Portfolio Prize, Amy Elkins, from the series Black is the Day, Black is the Night. Expanding upon her series Parting Words, Elkins explores the issues surrounding capital punishment.
As a part of her process, Elkins exchanges letters with prisoners on death row, interspersing those letters with images created in an effort to capture the interior landscapes evoked in these correspondences: imagined seascapes, recreations of items described by prisoners, a prison lunch tray purchased on eBay. She also creates color portraits of inmates by pixelating and obscuring their faces according to the amount of time each individual has been locked away.
Nine Years out of a Death Row Sentence (River) is an interpretation from one of these exchanges, with a pen pal serving a death row sentence who described being baptized several years ago. The Father had to reach through the bars to touch him; even with such restrictions, he remembers the touch as electric. Despite this, he feared it wasn’t good enough to save him. He longed to do a full-submersion baptism in a river, like Jesus had. This image was constructed out of his description of the river he wished to be baptized in, using appropriated images which were composited to account for the number of years he had spent in prison.


Amy Elkins (born in Venice, California, 1979) is a photographer currently based in Greater Los Angeles. She received her BFA in photography from the School of Visual Arts in New York. Elkins has been exhibited both nationally and internationally, including at Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna; Carnegie Art Museum, California; Minneapolis Institute of Arts; North Carolina Museum of Art; Light Work, Syracuse, New York; and Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York, among many others. Her work has been published in the New York Times Magazine, Eyemazing, PDN, Harper’s, NY Arts, Conveyor, and Contact Sheet, among others. Exhibition catalogues include The Portrait. Photography as a Stage: From Robert Mapplethorpe to Nan Goldin, which coincided with an exhibition at Kunsthalle Wien; and The Sports Show: Athletics as Image and Spectacle, which coincided with an exhibition at Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Elkins has been an artist-in-residence at Light Work in Syracuse in 2011 and at Villa Waldberta in Munich in 2012. In 2008, Elkins and Cara Phillips cofounded wipnyc.org, a platform for showcasing both established and emerging women in photography. Elkins is represented by Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York.