back to events

Panel Discussion

Seeing Angola

Wednesday, February 14

7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Aperture Gallery and Bookstore 547 West 27th Street New York, NY


Panelists: Deborah Luster, Zachary Lazar, Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick

Louisiana’s State Penitentiary, the largest maximum-security prison in the United States, is also known as “Angola,” as it sits on the site of a former plantation with a slave population originating from Angola, Africa. This panel convenes three photographers and one writer who have made work about the notorious prison in a state that has the highest rate of incarceration of any place in the world.

Moderated by Makeda Best, Richard L. Menschel Curator of Photography at the Harvard Art Museums.

In a series of public programs that accompany the spring issue of Aperture magazine and the related exhibition, Prison Nation, photographers, writers, historians, and activists discuss the unique role photography, art, and storytelling play in understanding and creating a dialogue around the crisis of mass incarceration in the United States.

Click here to see the full list of Prison Nation programming

Makeda Best is the Richard L. Menschel Curator of Photography at the Harvard Art Museums. She joined the Museums in 2017. She is currently at work on the upcoming exhibition James Baldwin’s America. Forthcoming publications include a book on Civil War–era photography, an essay on photography and incarceration, and an article on class and labor in nineteenth-century American photography. She is the coeditor of Conflict, Identity, and Protest in American Art (2016). She received her MFA in studio photography from the California Institute of the Arts and PhD from Harvard University.

Deborah Luster is best known for her long-term documentary series One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana (with poet C. D. Wright; 1998–2003), a photographic archive of prisoner portraits from three Louisiana prisons, including the state penitentiary at Angola, and Tooth for an Eye: A Chorography of Violence in Orleans Parish (2008–11), an archive of cityscapes documenting locations in New Orleans where homicides have been committed. Both monographs were published by Twin Palms Publishing (in 2003 and 2011). Luster’s awards include a 2018 Ford Foundation Art of Change fellowship, a 2016 Robert Gardner Fellowship from the Peabody Museum, and a 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship.

Image: Deborah Luster, Layla “Roach” Roberts (Inquisitor), 2012-13; Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Aperture magazine’s “Prison Nation” issue and the related exhibition and programs are funded, in part, with generous lead support from the Ford Foundation, as well as funding from the Reba Judith Sandler Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Grace Jones Richardson Trust, and the Board of Trustees and Members of Aperture Foundation. Additional public funds are from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Seeing Angola