Humanize the Numbers is a collaborative photography project with men incarcerated inside Michigan's Department of Corrections and students at the University of Michigan. This collaboration is facilitated by Isaac Wingfield, a lecturer in the Residential College at the University of Michigan. The collaborative meets for a workshop two hours per week for three months. During these workshops men inside the facility have a hands-on learning experience with photography, as they make images to express their own creative vision. Students from the university collaborate in this process, and are exposed to the personal impact of mass incarceration.
The title for the collaborative, Humanize the Numbers, came from a conversation in an early workshop about the potential for photography to serve as a counterpoint to the staggering numbers—it can literally "humanize the numbers" of mass incarceration. With this personal stories as the starting point, Humanize the Numbers seeks to provide an opportunity for those incarcerated in Michigan to share their stories—past, present, and future—through photographs.
Each workshop has functioned differently, with different participants, at different facilities, and often subject to different rules, as MDOC regulations change over the years. However, the consistent focus continues to be the personal vision of the men, as they create images inside perhaps one of the most restrictive photography studio environments.
Images from most of the collaborators are accessible on this website, but because these images belong to the men who make them, we do not publish images without the permission of an artist. These photographs have been exhibited within Michigan, and across the country. We hope these photographs will challenge you to consider the often invisible and silenced people who are confined in prisons around the country, and encourage you to reflect on your own preconceived ideas about those who are living their lives in prison.
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