Thursday, May 29, 2008

Inside the Architecture of Authority

Wired Magazine has published a collection of photographs by Richard Ross titled, "Inside the Architecture of Authority." The first picture is the death chamber at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola.

A new book by photographer Richard Ross, Architecture of Authority, examines the way institutional buildings exert power over people. Ross managed to gain impressive access to all kinds of secretive or high-security buildings, from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, to the supermax high-security Pelican Bay prison in California. Ross credits his unprecedented access to a combination of persistence and sincere curiosity. "Many of these people want to show you these places once they know that you're interested in their world," he says.

To question the pervasiveness of intimidating, "disgusting" architecture, the images in Ross' book are both striking and inviting. Ross intentionally makes the photos of oppressive structures look seductive. "You can convince people a lot easier by whispering in their ear rather than hitting them over the head," says Ross.

Following is a selection from the book along with Ross's commentary. Ross has an exhibition at the Aperture Gallery in New York which is now open to the public.

Below: Pictured is the prison's lethal injection chamber. "Ninety percent of inmates who enter Angola [Louisiana State Penitentiary], never leave," Ross says. Inmates work on the prison farm and are not allowed to eat the cows they raise because the quality of the meat is too high. Meals at Angola can cost as little as 17 cents per person since so much of the food is grown on site. Twice a year, inmates enjoy a rodeo on the prison grounds with barbecues and bull riding.

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