Until its closure in 2013, Kingston Penitentiary was home to some of Canadas most notorious convicts. Yet, after 178 years on the shores of Lake Ontario, the prisons visual record was vastly under-represented given its place in the national imagination.
When photographer Geoffrey James was asked by the Calgary Herald what attracted him to the prison as a subject, he replied, Its age and essential mysteriousness. The prison system is not that transparent. They dont let people in.
The result of Jamess six-month study is a range of startling colour and black-and-white pictures that detail KPs last days. On display are numerous instances of the architecture of incarceration, with its endless fencing and panopticonic views, but also of those doing time within its cells, common rooms, kitchens and prison yards.
In addition to Jamess prison pictures is The Lethbridge Project, a 1999 work commissioned by the Southern Alberta Art Gallery. For those who are chilled by prison imagery, this show might provide a tonic. According to the Glenbow, these pictures characterize Lethbridge as a prairie experience that is part mythic and part ordinary.