In the fall of 1977, Jack Lueders-Booth began teaching photography to the inmates of MCI Framingham, a women’s prison.
During his decade at the facility, he would make a series of polaroid images produced collaboratively with the women who lived in the prison. 50 of these images are presented in this new book alongside oral histories taken at the time by Booth.
Founded in 1878, MCI Framingham was opened to house incarcerated women for the crime of giving birth out of wedlock i.e., begetting, (Hester Prynne’s crime in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 novel, The Scarlet Letter). Some few years later MCI Framingham began incarcerating women for shoplifting, organised prostitution, using and trafficking drugs, armed robbery, child abuse, and murder. Many women at Framingham were convicted for helping their husbands or boyfriends commit crimes. By the Mid 70s, the correctional facility was part of an ongoing normalisation experiment that sought to mitigate the psychological consequences of incarceration. In Booth’s images, neither inmates nor guards are uniformed, cells are made to look like dormitory rooms, and inmates could furnish and decorate them within the constraints of guidelines. Male inmates were introduced, constituting twenty percent of the communal population. Many of the inmates in Lueders-Booth’s images had dependent children who were placed in the care of relatives or court-appointed foster parents, they were allowed to visit with an adult.
“My time there was scheduled to end in 1978, but by then I had begun photographing these women, and what had begun at their request grew to occupy me fully. I wished to continue and did, remaining at MCI Framingham for another 7 years, photographing, while also tutoring selected inmates who had a continuing interest in photography. In 1980, (two years into what would be a seven-year project) I received two, back-to-back 6-month Polaroid Fellowships that supplied me with 4X5” (view camera) colour film, which is what was used to make the photographs in this book, which are here shown in homage and gratitude to these women.” - Jack Lueders-Booth