Edgar Martins’ I Need You More Than You Need Me is a multifaceted body of work developed, over a period of 3 years, from a collaboration with Grain Projects and the families of inmates housed at Her Majesty’s Prison Birmingham, in the area of Winson Green, Birmingham.

Using the social context of incarceration as a starting point, Martins explores the concept of absence, and addresses a broader consideration of the status of the photograph when questions of visibility, ethics, aesthetics and documentation intersect. By giving a voice to inmates and their families and addressing prison as a set of social relations rather than a mere physical space, the work proposes to rethink and counter the sort of imagery normally associated with incarceration.

The project thus wilfully circumvents images whose sole purpose, Martins argues, is to confirm the already held opinions within dominant ideology about crime and punishment: violence, drugs, criminality, race—an approach that only serves to reinforce the act of photographing and photography itself as apotropaic devices.

Composed of three distinct chapters, encompassing film, archive and new photography and text, Martins’ work shifts between image and information, between fiction and evidence, strategically deploying visual and textual details in tandem so that the viewer becomes aware of what exists outside the confines of the frame.

Martins’ project was selected as a Juror’s Pick in this year’s LensCulture Art Photography Awards by La Fábrica and PhotoEspaña’s Artistic Director, Oliva Maria Rubio, who was drawn to the images because of their powerful subversion of photographic tropes. “Drawing from reality, the voice of prisoners and their families, and the social context of incarceration, this work transcends the purely documentary and asks us to question how we see and think of images of incarceration and the absence of loved ones,” Rubio explains. “The enigmatic images show where pain exists. They communicate desperation, the desire for freedom, loneliness and nightmare, and question the world we live in and the system in which these experiences are sustained.”

Editor’s Note: I Need You More Than You Need Me is one part of Martins’ multifaceted body of work, which challenges the societal perception of incarceration by pushing it into the personal sphere. His previous project, What Photography Has In Common With An Empty Vase, uses the social context of incarceration to explore the philosophical concept of loneliness. You can check out our article on his previous series here.