Exposure to Light: Pinhole Photography features the creative work of young artists who were incarcerated in Southeast Michigan in 2018 and 2019. Juvenile facility policies do not allow the use of cameras and cell phones due to safety and security concerns. This, paired with the prioritization of confidentiality, results in a lack of access to technology: firewalls constructed in digital spaces mirror the concrete walls that surround these artists. For these reasons, incarcerated youth often live unrecorded lives. Through the Youth Arts Alliance’s (YAA) Photography Residencies, the youth are able to utilize low-tech pinhole cameras—light-proof boxes with a tiny aperture and no lens—to bring to light their lived experiences in confinement.
The photographs depict the young artists’ relationships to incarceration, as well as peers, family, emotions, nature, and aesthetic experimentation. The images celebrate their ingenuity and bear witness to their resiliency. In recognition of the agency these young artists have in documenting their lives on their own terms, the title of this exhibition is chosen by the artists. Through the lenses of incarcerated youth, pinhole photography becomes a technical process, a means of self-expression, and a ray of hope.
Exposure to Light: Pinhole Photography is organized by the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University and curated by Katie Greulich, Ph.D., former Assistant Curator of Academic Collaborations, in collaboration with Youth Arts Alliance, Ypsilanti; Washtenaw County Youth Center, Ann Arbor; Monroe County Youth Center, Monroe; and Jackson County Youth Center, Jackson. Support for this exhibition is provided by the Elizabeth Halsted endowment fund.