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University of Missouri

Faces of Change

Mizzou alumni collaborate on an exhibition at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.

Brooks portrait

Melanie Brooks cutline here.

Q: The photographs you made for the Faces of Change exhibition are a departure from the commercial and advertising focus of a lot of your photography. How did that change your approach?

A: My approach is always pragmatic. I base my decisions on what I need in the end. Then I decide how to get there. This exhibition is more photojournalism and less commercial. But either way, I have to interact with my subjects in a positive way to attain an honest look.

Daryan England portrait

Daryan England cutline here.

 

Q: You worked on the Savitar staff while studying photojournalism at Mizzou. What is your fondest memory of photographing for the Savitar?

A: Wow, that takes me back in time. I loved shooting college sports and rock concerts. I made the concert mistake of my life when I chose Olivia Newton-John over Johnny Cash. I just wasn’t into Johnny Cash back in the 1970s. Later in the ’80s, I began to understand Johnny Cash and love his music. That’s when I realized my mistake. Of course, I thought Olivia Newton-John was a babe.

prison wall

The north wall at Lansing Correctional Facility in Lansing, Kansas.

 

Q: Was there a moment or event that helped you realize commercial photography was the direction you wanted take your career?

A: Yes: While riding in the hectic presidential motorcade, I accidentally jumped into the moving motorcade’s Secret Service car. I accidentally broke national security — although I did get a great image of President Ford when he got the nomination. I began to look toward commercial photography. It gave me much more control over my life. Money was a factor, but I figured I could still do editorial passion projects if I made a good living shooting advertising and commercial work. I have no regrets.

Windsor portrait

Damien Windsor poses for a portrait inside the Lansing Correctional Facility.

 

Q: Are there any Mizzou faculty or fellow graduates who have had an influence on your work?

A: Angus McDougall, Charlie Nye, Dan White, Ethan Hoffman, David Rees. All great photographers.

girl looking out window

Melanie Brooks looks out the library window at the Topeka Correctional Facility in Topeka, Kansas.

 

Q: How did the Faces of Change project come about, and what was the most difficult thing about it?

A: I met this amazing woman, SuEllen Fried, one of the co-founders of Reaching Out From Within. When she told me about the program, I was intrigued. I went with her to the Lansing Correctional Facility to meet with the inmates. They were bright, articulate, warm, funny and very welcoming. I simply wanted to put a face on this great organization that did so much good. I felt they made the world a better place. My job was to help tell the story in a photographic way. My goal was to get the collection of images in a top gallery, such as the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. It worked. The most difficult part was navigating security and leaving our cell phones behind. When the doors of maximum security close behind you, it’s a bit scary. The inmates didn’t scare us in the least bit — the walls did.

lunch tray

A lunch tray at the Topeka Correctional Facility.

man with welder's mask

Larry Humphrey, who learned how to weld while incarcerated at the Lansing Correctional Facility, poses for a portrait.