Bruce Jackson Retrospective Photo Exhibition & Short Documentary (NOW on PBS)

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Photography & Film Exhibition. Short Film now on PBS


“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the united states, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”  —Thirteenth Amendment, Section 1, U.S. Constitution. (Ratified 1865)



Join us for the opening reception for WAKE*UP, DEAD MEN: A Retrospective of Bruce Jackson’s Prison Farm Photography, 1965-1975.

La Peña Gallery
227 Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas 78701

June 5th, 2015

6 – 8PM
Free & Open to Public

This show, curated by documentarian Deborah S. Esquenazi, benefits the Innocence Project of Texas, and brings together Bruce Jackson, the San Antonio Four, and several exonorees from around the state who will be present to share their perspectives on current prison reforms. Collaborators include: University of Texas Press, La Peña Gallery, and Humanities Texas.


As recently as the 1970’s, many inmates in southern prisons lived and worked on prison farms that were not only modeled after the American slave plantation, but even occupied lands that literally were slave plantations before the Civil War, and on which working and living conditions had not changed much a century after the war. Renowned photographer, folklorist, and documentarian, Bruce Jackson, began visiting some of these ‘farms’ in the 1960’s to study black convict work songs and folk culture.

Today, Jackson is one of a few documentarians to have received unprecedented access to this long-gone Southern prison farm before its evolution into the now-modernized industrial prison complex. In this photo retrospective, we take a journey through photographs of a prison culture that is the direct descendent of the 19th century slave plantation.

At the gallery, we will screen on continuous loop two of Mr. Jackson’s historical films, African- American Worksongs in a Texas Prison (1966), which he co-directed with iconic folk singer Pete Seeger, and Death Row, co-directed with his wife Diane Christian, from 1979. These films will be preceded by a short documentary presentation by filmmaker and curator of this show, Deborah S. Esquenazi.


Bruce Jackson is an American folklorist, documentary filmmaker, writer, photographer. He is SUNY Distinguished Professor and the James Agee Professor of American Culture at the University at Buffalo. Jackson has edited or authored 33 books and his articles have appeared in numerous magazines. He has also directed and produced five documentary films.

He has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (1971), was nominated for a Grammy (1974), was president of the American Folklore Society (1984), chairman of the board of trustees of the American Folklore Center in the Library of Congress (1988–89, trustee 1984-89), and director, then trustee of the Newport Folk Foundation (1965—).

He has spent his academic career at the University at Buffalo. From 1986-1990 Jackson was editor of the Journal of American Folklore. He has also published articles and photographs in Harper’s, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, Film Comment, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, The Texas Observer, Rolling Stone, Ácoma, The Antioch Review, Sing Out!, The Minnesota Review, The Nation, The New Republic, Criminal Law Bulletin, Latino-America and Senses of Cinema.

Event posting:



Inside the Wire by Bruce Jackson


1975 982 36 1-2

Michel Foucault (left) & Bruce Jackson. Courtesy Bruce Jackson.