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August 22 @ 9:00 am - September 16 @ 9:00 pm

Pictures of Progress: An Exhibit by Karl Clifton-Soderstrom

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Reception & Artist Talk on Tuesday, September 13 at 4:30pm.

Location: Carlson Tower Gallery.

In 1865, Frederick Douglass delivered one of several important speeches on photography titled “Pictures and Progress” wherein the orator, writer and social justice agitator advocated for photography’s power in the abolitionist and antiracism movements. As he stated, “Men of all conditions and classes can now see themselves as others see them, and as they will be seen by those [who] shall come after them.”

In 2016, North Park University professors began teaching theology classes inside Stateville Correctional Center. In 2018, the program launched into a four year masters program known as the “School of Restorative Arts.” From the beginning, the students in these programs were photographed by Karl Clifton-Soderstrom. When Karl first photographed the students in 2016, many of the men had not had a photograph taken of them, other than their prison ID, in over a decade. The first cohort of masters students graduated in May of 2022. This exhibit is the result of a collaboration between Karl and the SRA students, and includes photographs, reflections by the men inside and the visionaries of the School of Restorative Arts.

These images speak to the hope and contradiction that is a learning community inside a prison. They call to mind what Frederick Douglass said in his speech: “Poets, prophets, and reformers are all picture-makers – and this ability is the secret of their power and of their achievements. They see what ought to be by the reflection of what is, and endeavor to remove the contradiction.”

Photo Credit: Karl Clifton-Soderstrom

Student Photographed: Manuel Metlock

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