NEW YORK, NY.-
Photographer Hinda Schuman met Concetta and Linda while volunteering at New Directions for Women, an alternative to incarceration residential program for women in the Philadelphia prison system. Schuman would bring a bag of fresh fruit for the women, and they would all talk, learn skills like how to read a map, and listen while Schuman read aloud books like Diary of Anne Frank, and Alice in Wonderland. She then began photographing them, including annual formal portraits they could send home to their loved ones.
As a long form documentary photographer, Schuman immerses herself over years and allows the stories to unfold through the images. She has known Linda and Concetta for close to 15 years and as the knowledge of each other grew in depth and resonance, so did the stories told through photographs.
The images gathered in book form in Done Doing Time: Portraits of Life After Prison were all taken from 2018-2022 after the women were released from prison. The photographs show them in their homes and neighborhoods, and with the people in their family.
Photographer and educator, Magdalena Solé, contributed an essay for this book and discusses Schuman's unique approach, and the quality of insight and dedication that this project represents. She writes,
"Hinda is a storyteller; her language is the photographs she renders with precision and dedication. Her stories are the lives of people she deeply cares about. Hinda doesnt look away. Hinda never averts her eyes when others do. Where others place judgment and blame on convicts or other marginalized people, Hinda does not. She simply tries to help. She is one of those rare people who cares fearlessly. When someone is in need, she moves toward them, attracted like a moth to light. This caring is the thread in her photography."
The color photographs provide a window into the daily lives of both women, with Schuman's composition style finding and honoring the balance of humanistic elements in faces and gestures revealing certain aspects of their lives, along with the details of physical spaces within homes and in neighborhoods informing of other elements.
Schuman's essay in the book gives insight into the very real daily life efforts and circumstances both women are navigating. She shares:
"Linda worked at a diner in the heart of the heroin and opioid drug trade in Philadelphia. Every day (and she worked seven days a week) she walked past the swaying shells of people, the dropped needles, and the offers to buy. She kept walking. Concetta made places in her small apartment for her two daughters and granddaughter. It was family life: TV shows, laundromat trips, getting meals together. Concetta was an anchor to her children and the neighborhood. Linda was trying to get her mother and brother off heroin, while keeping herself safe and busy."
The Sentencing Project is a Washington, D.C.-based research and advocacy center working for decarceration in the United States and seeking to address racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Executive director, Amy Fettig, wrote the book's Afterword and she notes incarceration statistics that point to discrepancies and vulnerabilities women in particular face. She writes,
"Some of the most overlooked and vulnerable women in American society are in prisons and jails. And their numbers have been growing for decades, at rates twice as high as those for men. On any given day, over 200,000 women are incarcerated in a US prison or jail. This represents a 700 percent increase since 1980. It also means that the United States imprisons more women than any other country on the planet. In fact, while only 5 percent of the worlds female population lives in the U.S., our country accounts for nearly 30 percent of the worlds incarcerated women."
This effectively makes the United States the "world's greatest jailer of women," she points out.
She continues that these statistics imply ongoing and profound challenges of different kinds once the women are released and working to integrate back into their communities and build sustainable lives. Done Doing Time turns a compassionate and authentic lens on this particular aspect through the collaboration with Linda and Concetta.
In the back of the book there are deep captions for select photographs that provide further context into the daily lives of the women.
Hinda Schuman is a documentary photographer, photojournalist, and educator. She spent almost 20 years at The Philadelphia Inquirer covering regional news and sports. Prior to her career at The Inquirer, she taught reading and other classes to students in grades 1-8 in Vermont. Hinda was the volunteer coordinator for the Brattleboro (VT) Area Womens Crisis Center, assisting women who were fleeing their abusers. She has her MFA from Tyler School of Art and Architecture. Her first book, Dear Shirley was published by Daylight Books in 2018. For more information, go to http://www.hindaschuman.net