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Pictures from a Drawer

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Table of Contents

1. Pictures from a Drawer; 2. Restoring the Eyes; 3. Size; 4. Dating the Images; 5. The Women; 6. Portraits; 7. Seeing People; 8. The Order of Things; 9. Mirrors; II.; Images; Appendix: Cooter's Yellow Pad

Promotional Information

A remarkable collection of prison "portraiture" photos

About the Author

Bruce Jackson is SUNY Distinguished Professor and Samuel P. Capen Professor of American Culture, University at Buffalo. He is the author of more than 20 other books, including The Story Is True: The Art and Meaning of Telling Stories (Temple), a documentary filmmaker and photographer. The French government named him Chevalier in L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France's highest honor in the arts and humanities.


"I'm intrigued by the portraits of these prisoners. What were their lives like? Did they all come from poverty? Their expressions of wonderment, tragedy, and even amusement fascinate me. I want to know their whole life stories: How long did they live? Did they die in prison? What terrible act did they commit to become a prisoner? These pictures all speak to me of another time not only because of the way the people are dressed, but also because of the direct simplicity and innocence of the images. Today, when so many photographs are altered and manipulated, the honesty and reality of these images make them stand out as powerful and true portraiture for all time." Mary Ellen Mark "The absorbing opening chapters discuss everything from the nature and history of portraiture, to his trips to the prison, to the technical details of how he restored the photos without compromising what had happened to the prints over time. The faces in the photos, these pictures from a drawer, are haunting."-Foreword magazine, May/June 2009 "This book does not chronicle the lives, deeds, and misdeeds of the people shown in the 'portraits.' The people in the photos are numbered, remaining unnamed, and perhaps, rightly so. It is largely a pictorial book, with an essay on how the pictures were created and how they have come to be compiled. The essential thing, as we look in to [the] eyes of each subject, in the facial personification of their incarceration, is the utter honesty of portrayal." Sacramento Book Review, June 2009 "[T]his outstanding book makes the most of the 178 photographs that [Jackson] stuffed into his pockets thirty-four years ago. Pictures from a Drawer is part philosophical discourse on the meaning of photography, part technical treatise on the restoration and digitization of photographic prints, and part expose of the horrors of prison life (in the form of a memoir handwritten by a longtime inmate and presented to Jackson in 1973). However, what most strongly draws the reader into the book are the full-page portraits of prisoners, which Jackson has sensitively restored and contextualized. Indeed, Jackson has no peer when it comes to documenting and analyzing the folklife of prisons." Western Folklore, Vol. 70, No. 3/4, Summer/Fall 2011

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