Poignant Photos of the Outside World Requested by Inmates in Solitary Confinement

The number of prisoners in solitary confinement in the US is notoriously slippery, but the currently accepted figure is something in the region of 25,000. Some of them have been in there for decades, and there’s an ongoing debate about whether extended solitary confinement constitutes cruel and usual punishment — or, indeed, torture.

A new project called Photo Requests from Solitary has allowed prisoners held in isolation at the Tamms supermax prison in Illinois to request images from the outside world — the program posts requests on its website for photographers to fulfill, and some of the resultant pictures are going on display at Brooklyn Bridge Park this weekend. The images are poignant and moving, and if nothing else, they serve as a reminder of the casual brutality of the US prison system. Click through to see a selection of pictures and the requests that inspired them (and for a whole lot more art “inspired” by the experience of prison, go here).

Photo credit: Laurie Jo Reynolds and Chris X

Photo credit: Laurie Jo Reynolds and Chris X

“I would like my own picture done with an alternate background from the IDOC picture. I have no pictures of myself to give my friends and family. This would mean a great deal to me… If you can place my picture on another background. Nothing too much please. Something simple like a blue sky with clouds or a sunset in the distance would be fine.”