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February 21, 2012
An narrative-rich photo exhibition at Noorderlicht Photogallery in The Netherlands explores what is behind the prison walls in the United States. The curators, Hester Keijser and Pete Brook, tell us:
The title of the show, Cruel and Unusual, refers to a long-established legal term that first appeared in the 1689 English Bill of Rights. Adopted in the late 18th century as part of the U.S. Constitution, the 8th Amendment declares: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” In 1958, the U.S. Supreme Court stated that understanding of "cruel and unusual punishments" should change over time, being those punishments which offend society's "evolving sense of decency." Each of the presented projects urges the viewer to ask the question: into what is our sense of decency evolving?
The caption to the photo (above) reads:
Stateville in a basement storage area. Electric chairs (no longer in use): one from the State, the other from Cook County. During an electrocution a prisoner’s hair would catch fire and sometimes their eyeballs would melt, so a helmet, on each chair, was placed onto their heads so that witnesses wouldn’t be subjected to such visual horror. © 1993 Lloyd Degrane.
See and read more in the article in Lens Culture. Caution: some images may be too disturbing for sensitive viewers.