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After Attica: The Prison Portraits of Neil Rappaport. Photographs by Neil Rappaport 1971-1974. Text by Suzanne Rappaport.  Interviews by the Erica Heilman

After Attica

The Prison Portraits of Neil Rappaport, 1971-1974

Vermont Folklife Center
Vision & Voice Documentary Workspace
88 Main Street, Middlebury, VT 05753
(802) 388-4964
September 11, 2009 – December 4, 2009

"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" – (The Official Report of the New York State Special Commission on Attica).

Just as the Attica prison uprising focused public attention on life inside US prisons making the invisible visible, the lens of documentary inquiry can do exactly the same. This exhibit brings together portraits created by Neil Rappaport between 1971 and 1974 in the Great Meadow Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in Comstock, New York, and interviews conducted by Erica Heilman over the past two years with young men in Vermont's Return House program who are making the transition from imprisonment to everyday life. These are markedly different populations from different eras and at different locations, but the experiences of both groups of men are in some ways remarkably similar.

Rappaport's photographs and Heilman's audio each represent a complete body of work that tells its own story. Yet these stories are parallel and when brought together there are unexpected resonances. With 2.3 million people in prison in this country, one person in every hundred, the US has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Through the lives of the men featured in both image and sound this exhibit opens a window into the experience of incarceration and the American penal system in order to stimulate dialogue around a social issue that—visibly or invisibly—affects and touches the lives of us all.

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