Peter Merts’ Illuminating Photos of America’s Prison Arts Programs

For 15 years, photographer Peter Merts has documented people who are incarcerated as they participate in prison arts programs. The portraits, which have been released in Merts’ new book, Ex Crucible: The Passion of Incarcerated Artists, reveal new perspectives about the limits of the carceral system as well as the power of the arts. One such image depicts the theater class at Ironwood State Prison and focuses on a close-up of an actor during a performance in the commedia dell’arte style. The actor’s emotive face is the focal point of the image, attesting not only to the depth of the performance but also to the necessity of the arts and other supportive programs in fostering restorative paths for those in prisons. “By showing humanity and authenticity, originality and personality you create empathy,” says Merts. “I hope that what’s happening here is a path where we can advocate for victims without stripping the perpetrator’s humanity.” Read more at CNN.

Image courtesy of Daylight Books/Peter Merts