Parting Words and Black is the Day, Black is the Night

The Aperture Portfolio Prize identifies trends in contemporary photography, as well as specific photographers whose work deserves a wider audience. This year’s winner, Amy Elkins, submitted two portfolios stemming from issues surrounding capital punishment. Parting Words presents black-and-white portraits of people executed in the United States, constructed via the repetition of their last words. The effect is both formal and abstract, rendering each person’s fate chillingly concrete. In Black is the Day, Black is the Night, the letters Elkins exchanged with prisoners on death row are interspersed with images created in an effort to capture the interior landscapes evoked by these correspondences. Elkins’s work is elegiac and provocative, asking the viewer to engage above and beyond their first impressions of the images.


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