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Portraits from Death Row
by Lou Jones
Published September 2023
The Final Exposure project started for me at about age 15 when I argued on the issues of the death penalty with my father. Throughout the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War, in college, and afterward, it stayed with me. Six years of my life have been devoted to documenting the unseen, unheard stories of an American subculture – people on death row. I wanted to see if art could make a difference. I realized before I began that we don’t have to travel halfway around the world to find some unique phenomenon or recently discovered civilization to pique our jaded curiosity. The problem of our government-sanctioned murder lives with us.
My crew and I endured bone-chilling snowstorms, cheap motels, greasy meals, and numerous episodes of having our bodies frisked in order to bring this story to light. We explored the darkest side of the human condition even though it was our objective to humanize the people that the federal government and the states execute. We made sure we understood who was being killed in order to start a real debate about capital punishment. Many of the men/women are stoic when marching to their demise. But even though we admire the stamina that it takes to endure this ordeal in the super-macho environment, these are not heroic voyages these men are taking. And we must never be seduced into thinking otherwise.
When not traveling, Lou Jones exhibits at schools, museums, galleries, libraries, and institutions around the world. Throughout his career, Jones has undertaken personal long-term projects, such as Japan, tall ships, jazz, pregnancy and photographing people on fourteen death rows in the USA, resulting in two books and many exhibitions. In recent years, Jones has been documenting all 54 countries in contemporary Africa, trying to change the narrative from stereotypical negative topics of poverty, pestilence, and conflict: www.panAFRICAproject.org.