After Attica

As noted in the Official Report of the New York State Special Commission on Attica, “With the exception of the Indian massacres in the late 19th century, the State Police assault which ended the four-day prison uprising was the bloodiest one-day encounter between Americans since the Civil War." 

In reaction to the horror of the 1971 Attica uprising, photographer Neil Rappaport drove to Comstock, New York, to meet with the superintendent at the Great Meadow Correctional Facility.  He was there to offer his services as a volunteer teacher of photography.  

Comstock was a maximum-security prison with approximately 1,500 inmates. The population was predominantly black with many men recently moved from Attica; the guards and officers were predominantly white. The superintendent agreed to let Neil make a start because after the brutality and inhumanity toward inmates seen by the public at Attica, prisons in New York State were working hard to improve their image by opening up to local communities.  

Almost immediately Neil began making portraits of his students and other inmates. These also became "pictures for home." The fact that the facility authorities would not allow any of the prison environment to be shown in the photographs focused Neil "in" on the men, and for them it meant they could create the image of themselves they wanted. The portraits are theatrical and expressive without inhibition.  

During the three years Neil Rappaport ran a photography program at Comstock he made over 300 portraits of inmates. The “After Attica” exhibit is their first public showing, where fifty of Neil’s portraits are presented in combination with audio excerpts from recent interviews with youth offenders created by audio producer Erica Heilman.