Shutter Release – Picturing Life After Prison

A project to support people who are rebuilding their lives following prison or addiction.

A project to support people who are rebuilding their lives following prison or addiction.


Project Location:

Project Manager:
Matt Daw

Matt Daw and Lorraine Goddard

Local Support:
Anne Cowman (NHS)

Partner Organisation:
NHS HM Prison Leeds

Deloitte Empowering Women, Young Philanthropy Syndicate, The Photographic Angle

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Project description:
Shutter Release focused on helping people who are rebuilding their lives following prison or addiction. The project sought to identify and communicate things that would make it easier for them to reach personal goals for the future, enabling them to plan and prepare.

Through exhibitions and other materials, the views and experiences of participants fed into the public debate about how people can be better supported to reach their goals and achieve successful rehabilitation following prison or addiction.

Project Aims:

  • To reduce re-offending rates for prisoners by increasing their level of mental and practical preparedness for successful rehabilitation through photography.
  • To raise awareness of the barriers and anxieties faced by prisoners upon release from prison, in order to campaign for better support structures and to allow prisoners to feed into the design and implementation of those structures.
  • To create a model of good practice and an evidence base to support the wider use of photography as a tool to tackle issues around release and rehabilitation.

In November 2012 PhotoVoice Project Manager Matt Daw and facilitator Lorraine Goddard delivered a course of eight full-day workshops with a group of three prisoners approaching release, based in the Jigsaw Centre – a charitable project based on the prison grounds and offering support to prisoners – families who come to visit their loved ones. The course consisted of technical photography skills, visual literacy and storytelling through images, and group discussion of issues involved in preparing for, and dealing successfully with release from prison. The prisoners were given ROTL (day release) to take part in this project over the two weeks of workshops.

The course included a visit from an ex offender working as a mentor with the St Giles Trust, who gave a talk to the prisoners about his experience breaking the cycle of re-offending after his last prison term, and finding work after over 40 years of never having been employed.

Through the course, the participants were supported to consider what challenges they would be facing upon release – both those that would generally affect anyone coming out of prison and also those specific to their situation. They built up personal scrapbooks with photos they had taken, photos they had found and evaluated from newspapers, magazines and books provided as visual stimulus, and notes on their personal milestones after release and how they would reach them. These scrapbooks were invaluable since the prisoners were not allowed to take their cameras back into the cells, but could take their scrapbooks to reflect on photos they had taken and continue work storyboarding their personal journey photo stories.

All the participants succeeded in creating a captioned photo story specific to their situation, conveying what they wanted to explore and encourage others in similar situations to consider. Issues explored included finding employment, facing family and friends, and money troubles. Their work also highlights some issues that those with no experience of prison may not be aware – for example the costs incurred by prisoners in order to maintain a balanced diet and personal hygiene, leading to a draining of resources while they are not earning.

Project Gallery:

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