Since 2009, artist Amy Elkins has been working on a series that she has often described as a collaboration, titled “Black is the Day, Black is the Night”. Elkins began correspondence with a number of men who were/have been serving life sentences and/or death row sentences in some of the U.S.’s maximum security prisons. Each inmate had already served a minimum of 13 years before Elkins contacted them and soon began an exploration through their lives, memories, and feelings towards their incarceration. “I constructed images using formulas specific to each of their stories, age and years incarcerated. Through these formulas their portraits became more unrecognizable and their memories became more muddled, regurgitated and fictional with the endless passing years of their sentence. Stripped of personal context and placed in solitary cells, their sense of identity, memory and time couldn’t help but mutate. I sent these images to them, they would critique them. This went on for years. Of the seven men I originally wrote, I remain in touch with one who has been in solitary confinement since 1995 for a crime committed at 16. One was released in 2010 at the age of 30 (after 15 years in prison), three eventually opted out, one was executed in 2009, another executed in March of 2012,” explains Elkins. The series recently received the Aperture Portfolio Prize for 2014.
text by Canbra Hodsdon