Formerly Incarcerated Men and Woman Exhibit Photographs at MoMA PS1 in Queens, New York

Ex-prisoners Given Rare Opportunity to Exhibit Photos at MoMA PS1

With all this going on with the pandemic, with the lock-down, jobs being lost, the ability to point your camera into the world and create images has been helpful while dealing with all the craziness.”

— Lionel “Doc” Limage

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES, September 23, 2021 / — The extraordinary work of five photographers from a class of formerly incarcerated men and women is featured in the Homeroom, a new exhibition space at MoMA PS1 in Queens. MoMA PS1 was founded in 1971 and is one of the largest art institutions in the United States dedicated solely to contemporary art. It became affiliated with the Museum of Modern Art in 2000. The photographers were part of The Digital Media Training Program’s inaugural iPhone Photography and Videography Workshop directed by Melvin McCray, a retired network television journalist, in partnership with the Fortune Society, non-profit criminal justice reform and prison re-entry organization with facilities in Queens and Manhattan. The exhibition is open now until October 11, 2021. MoMA PS1 is located at 22-25 Jackson Ave, Queens, NY 1110. The museum is open from Thursday to Monday. Reserved, timed tickets can be obtained from their website

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. in March of 2020, the Digital Media Training Program’s in-person classes shifted to the online Zoom platform. With the help of corporate sponsors, every student was issued their own Apple iPhone to use as a video and still camera. The workshop aims to teach digital media and journalism skills and promote mental health through artistic expression and peer collaboration. The project also strives to lessen discrimination against people with criminal justice histories and share the universality of their struggles through media. McCray created the DMTP in 2013, a Harlem-based non-profit under the umbrella of the Board for the Education of People of African Ancestry. The DMTP has given over 400 New Yorkers free training in video production, photography, and journalism. Columbia University, corporate sponsors, and individual donors fund the iPhone classes.

About the Photographers
Five photographers from the class are featured in the Homeroom exhibit. Colin Absolam’s photo, Colin Absolam, and Colin Kaepernick: The Meeting of Two Worlds is a composite of a 30-foot billboard photo of Kaepernick and a self-portrait of Absolam. “When I saw Kaepernick on the billboard in Times Square, I said, I have to take that picture because I knew the stand that he took and the backlash,” said Absolam. “It says a lot about a person who’s willing to put everything on the line for something they believe in.” Absolam is also putting everything on the line as he creates a new life at a transitional housing facility called the Fortune Academy after serving 24 years in prison for murder. Governor Cuomo pardoned him in February 2020 because of his humanitarian work, leadership skills, and educational achievement. Absolam co-founded Voices From Within, an organization that brings the children of inmates to visit them in prison to discourage them from engaging in a life of crime. While in prison, he earned an undergraduate degree from Mercy College and a master’s degree in Professional Development for the New York Theological Seminary.

“There’s a sense of fulfillment that I get from photography,” says Lionel “Doc” Limage, another photographer featured in the exhibit. “With all this going on with the pandemic, with the lock-down, jobs being lost, normal commerce being interrupted, the ability to point your camera into the world and create images has been helpful while dealing with all the

“My photographs have recurring themes,” says Carolyn Marie, another featured photographer in the exhibit. “I keep photographing the police, the fire department, and medical workers.” “Without a doubt, I’ve got some very deep-seated trauma with all three of those things,” says Marie.

Joseph Soto’s photograph is called Honoring Our Grandfathers. “I have a strong connection with nature and bodies of water because of my Native American heritage practices and because it was taken away from me for a very long time,” says Soto. He was released from prison in 2019, just before the Coronavirus hit the United States. “One of the things that helped me survive this coronavirus pandemic was being mindful of nature, going on trips into the forest, and walking by the riverfront.”

McCray is looking for additional funding to expand the program.

Melvin McCray
The Digital Media Training Program/Media Genesis Solutions
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