Photographer Trent Bell goes to prison and asks prisoners, “What would you like to say to your younger self in light of where you are today?” Bell then Photoshops the letters around portraits for a resulting art gallery display. The process and the public’s reaction to the portraits are worth watching.
In early 2013, commercial photographer Trent Bell was shocked by the news that a friend – an educated professional, a husband, and a father of four children – had been sentenced to thirty-six years in prison. Over the proceeding months, Bell found himself haunted by not only his friend’s bad decisions and loss of freedom, but also moments in his own life when things could have easily taken a bad turn.
“There were times when my son would look up and smile at me,” recalls Bell, “and the finality of my friend’s situation would rush into my head and I would hear a cold thin voice say: ‘…there, but for the grace of God, go I…’”
Bell, who is known for his architectural photography in publications such as the Conde Nast Traveler, Design New England, and The New York Times, soon conceived of a photo project that would merge large-scale portraits of inmates in the Maine prison system with handwritten letters the convicts composed as though writing to their younger selves.
“Our bad choices can contain untold loss, remorse, and regret,” says Bell, “but the positive value of these bad choices might be immeasurable if we can face them, admit to them, learn from them and find the strength to share.”
“REFLECT: Convicts’ Letters to Their Younger Selves” is an artistic documentation of choices, consequences, and reflection. Bell’s portraits—along with video documentation by Joe Carter and additional prison guard portraits by Corey Desrochers. for more information visit: www.trentbell.com