Peter Neufeld; Barry Scheck The Innocents

ISBN 13: 9781884167188

The Innocents

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Leading civil rights attorneys Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck of The Innocence Project commissioned photographer Taryn Simon to travel across the United States photographing and interviewing individuals who were convicted of heinous crimes of which they were innocent. Simon photographed these innocents at sites of particular significance to their illegitimate conviction: the scene of the crime, misidentification, arrest, or alibi. Simon’s portraits are accompanied by a commentary by Neufeld and Scheck.

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The Innocents is a book of portraits of former inmates accompanying a traveling exhibit by the same name mounted by the Innocence Project, a 10-year-old civil rights program founded by rock-star attorneys Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck to free the wrongly convicted via DNA testing. Neufeld and Scheck provide the book's foreward and brief commentary on each case. The subjects are all ex-cons who were exonerated through DNA testing and then released after serving time. Some had been sentenced to life, some to death. Taryn Simon's photographs put prisoners in the spotlight--only this time they regain their dignity and become art in the process. Of the 80-plus portraits in the book, most were taken at the scenes of the crimes. Some pose with the victims. Ronald Cotton, for example, served more than 10 years of a life sentence for rape. He is photographed with a victim, both of them staring at the camera with fortitude and bitterness. Nearly every picture is similar, the subject staring directly into the lens, always surrounded by the same eerie, diffused light like the kind when tornadoes loom. The subjects are interviewed by Simon as well; their commentary is also distressing and poignant. Neil Miller says he had a better life in prison. Richard Danziger was freed but rendered brain damaged by a jailhouse attacker. Walter Snyder went to prison instead of the Olympics. Most of these subjects were convicted on the basis of witness misidentification. Simon's photos are also like mug shots, depicting their subjects with emotionless expressions and using lighting that flattens out the surroundings. But here they set the record straight as Simon’s art helps re-humanize them. --Eric Reyes

About the Author:

Taryn Simon was born in 1975 in New York. In 1997, she graduated from Brown University. Her photographs have exhibited internationally, and been featured in numerous publications including, The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker. In 2001, she was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in Photography. He work can be viewed at Gagosian Gallery in New York City.

Peter Neufeld and Barry C. Scheck co-founded and direct the Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City. The Project provides pro bono representation to inmates throughout the country who claim that DNA testing could prove their innocence. The Project also studies the institutional causes of wrongful convictions and provides remedies to reduce the frequency of future miscarriages of justice.

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Peter Neufeld; Barry Scheck
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Peter Neufeld, Barry Scheck
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