Women on the Outside is a multimedia installation that examines the daily impact of prison on the lives of women who visit loved ones behind bars.
Featuring: Zara Katz, Lisa Riordan Seville, Zora J. Murff, Michael Krisch, Mark Hansen, Dalit Shalom
The Magnum Foundation and the Brown Institute for Media Innovation
Lisa Riordan Seville and Zara Katz
When someone is incarcerated, female family members often pick up the pieces. Women care for children, scrape together commissary money and pay high telephone rates to keep families connected. They are the rock. But the financial and emotional strain of having loved ones behind bars can take a toll upon women on the outside. This is one piece of the unseen legacy of mass incarceration in the United States.
To Kristal Bush, it sometimes feels like all of the men in her life have been locked up. Her first visit to Pennsylvania prisons was to see her father. She was five. Now 27, Kristal has visited at least 14 friends and relatives behind bars.
Pennsylvania incarcerates more than 49,000 people in its state prisons. Almost half are Black. Nearly one in three prisoners enters the system in Philadelphia County. These numbers shape families.
As Kristal graduated Temple University, bought a house and became a social worker, incarceration remained a backbeat to her life. She sent money to her brother, Jarvae, and became the legal guardian to his young son, Nyvea. On weekends, the family drove to visit Jarvae at Huntingdon prison, 200 miles each way. When Kristal and her mother, Crystal Speaks, struggled to keep up with the expense of those visits, Jarvae suggested they start a van service to transport other families to visit their incarcerated loved ones. Bridging the Gap was born.
Over the last four years, Kristal has taken Bridging the Gap from a side hustle to a legitimate business. Kristal, her mother, and Cassandra, who Kristal hired as a third driver after connecting on a prison visit, set out several times each week to 16 prisons across the state. Riders pay between $25 and $70 for door-to-door service. Trips span hundreds of miles, and sometimes stretch over 12 hours. Women sleep and primp, children play, and music helps the miles pass. Veteran riders share tips with newcomers: what to wear and where to sit in the visiting room, how to grapple with bills and the end of a visit when a loved one is left behind.
This multi-media installation documents a Bridging the Gap van ride to Smithfield and Huntingdon prisons, offering a glimpse into the lives of this group of women on the outside trying to stay connected to loved ones behind bars.
Production and Curation: Zara Katz and Lisa Riordan Seville
Photographer: Zora J. Murff
Data Visualizations and Web Interactive: Michael Krisch and Mark Hansen
Exhibition Designer: Dalit Shalom
Lisa Riordan Seville is an investigative reporter and Zara Katz is a photo editor and visual producer. Together they are the creators and producers of @EverydayIncarceration, a collaborative Instagram feed that curates photographs telling the stories of 40 years of mass incarceration in the United States.
Zora J. Murff is a photographer who focuses on the role of images in the correctional system. His work has been exhibited internationally and published in The British Journal of Photography, Wired and VICE, among others. Zora co-curates Strange Fire Collective, and is pursuing his MFA at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
The Magnum Foundation fosters creativity and diversity in documentary photography. Through grant-making, creative partnerships, education, and mentoring, we support socially engaged image-makers experimenting with new models for storytelling.
The Brown Institute for Media Innovation sponsors thinking, building and speculating on how stories are discovered and told in a networked, digitized world. The Institute annually awards fellowships, grants and scholarships, and is helping design a series of public events and novel educational experiences in digital storytelling.