Bruce Jackson (b. 1936), Cummins Prison, Arkansas, 1972; black and white photograph, 13 x 19 inches; Courtesy of the Artist

Bruce Jackson Being There: Michel Foucault & the Arkansas convict

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Throughout the run of Being There: Bruce Jackson Photographs 1962-2010, the artist is sharing some of the stories behind his photographs.Being There is on view until June 16, 2013. The catalog accompanying the exhibition is available at The Museum Store at the Burchfield Penney.


The top photo is a convict I met in Cummins, the Arkansas prison farm for adult men in 1972. When I took it I thought, "This is what Michel Foucault would look like if he got really sick." The second photo is Foucault in his Paris apartment in 1975. Diane and I were there for two reasons. First, the French publication of my book In the Life: Versions of the Criminal Experience, which had been published in the US three years earlier. The French title was Leurs prisons and it appeared in Plon's Terre Humaine series. Michel wrote the preface for that translation. The second reason for the trip was the opening of an exhibit of some of my Arkansas prison photos at Galerie Place Bastille that had been set up to coincide with the publication of the book. Michel came to the opening and we talked a while and then he went over to that photograph of the Arkansas convict and stared at it for a long time. I knew he was thinking the same thing I was thinking when I'd made the shot three years earlier. I knew that would be a terrific photo: Michel Foucault looking at that wasted face of a long-term convict. I had a camera with me and could easily had made the shot, but I didn't do it because I knew Michel would know why I was doing it. It would be like a photograph of a friend looking at his own death. Michel died of AIDS in 1984.

-Bruce Jackson