Using the social context of incarceration as a starting point, Martins explores the philosophical concept of absence, and addresses a broader consideration of the status of the photograph when questions of visibility, ethics, aesthetics and documentation intersect. By giving a voice to inmates and their families and addressing prison as a set of social relations rather than a mere physical space, the work proposes to rethink and counter the sort of imagery normally associated with incarceration.
The project thus wilfully circumvents images whose sole purpose, Martins argues, is to confirms the already held opinions within dominant ideology about crime & punishment: violence, drugs, criminality, race – an approach that only serves to reinforce the act of photographing and photography itself as apotropaic devices.
Composed of three distinct chapters, encompassing film, archive and new photography, and text, Martins’ work shifts between image and information, between fiction and evidence, strategically deploying visual and textual details in tandem so that the viewer becomes aware of what exists outside the confines of the frame. This work marks a significant transition in Martins’ creative trajectory, signalling a growing inclination towards a broader, more hybrid and interdisciplinary perspective of images.
This work is now published as a twin-book publication, which includes over 130 archive and new images, one film, all enclosed in a genuine prison evidence bag.

July 2019
ISBN 978-0-9569085-4-4
Twin publication
170x230mm & 151x221mm
220 & 312 pages
300 copies
Softback & Harback
Essay by Mark Durden


What Photography & Incarceration have in Common with an Empty Vase

Edgar Martins

This multifaceted body of work was developed from a collaboration with Grain Projects and HM Prison Birmingham (the largest category B prison in the Midlands, UK), its inmates, their families and other organisations.      Read More >