Tuesday, November 11, 2014

US Marshalls- Art And Testosterone

Photo: Brian Finke

No doubt that Brian Finke can take one helluva photo. This guy's got chops, period. He can take high adrenaline action shots and formalize them into "fine art" color photography that can compete with the best of 'em. Not only does he make masterful use of the color palette, he also artfully composes his shots so that the action (or lack of it), staged or real, grabs your attention and holds it. And his use of lighting is just the right balance to complement and define the shot without sanitizing or commercializing it. It's interesting to examine just how this guy sees and work, and how he brings that complexity of vision to this particular "action genre."

Photo: Brian Finke

Do ya sense a but here? That's because I could not help but feel a tad queasy while viewing U.S. Marshalls. They no doubt do some really great work, dangerous work, necessary work that has to be done. But I'm also leery of all the gun ho, militarization of today's various police forces, and their glamorization. While millions upon millions are being poured into this nation's law enforcement agencies, many, if not most prisons today get little to no dollars for: rehabilitation, drug rehab, job training or education programs. Why, oh why, should prisons get funding for such programs? Because the vast majority of those prisoners will be coming out unto our streets once again at some point. Banned by law from public housing and effectively banned from most jobs when they are made to confess their personal history on job applications- wouldn't we all feel considerably safer if they had something constructive to do with their time? And maybe, just maybe, that is in large part why prisons nationwide hover around a 70% recidivism rate- what other business is allowed to operate with such a ridiculously high failure rate?

Photo: Brian Finke

If anything, this book reads as much recruitment poster, as it does art. Perhaps that's not entirely fair to throw in when judging a monograph solely on artistic merit, but eminently fair when considering and judging as a work of art.

Mr. Finke was allowed access to the world of US Marshalls through a childhood friend, now agent. During that time, effectively as an embed, they talked of mutual childhood acquaintances that were currently incarcerated. Perhaps one day Mr. Finke will also allow us a view into the federal prison system. And at that point, I may even accuse him of painting too alluring a picture of prison life...

PS- In the interest of full disclosure, Powerhouse Books contacted me to write about this book- no money, books, or other miscellaneous swag were exchanged in the process.

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