Imagine you’ve organized inmates at the Cook County Jail into a photography class. Hard to do, since most of us can’t imagine volunteering anywhere, doing anything, not even for an hour stuffing envelopes at a local church. Never mind approaching Sheriff Tom Dart, persuading him to let you into the jail, then digging into your own pocket to buy cameras to place into the hands of hardened men more accustomed to using their hands to throw gang signs.
What’s your next thought? If you were Chicago music photographer Christopher Jacobs, it is “Now I’ll organize the prisoners in my second photography class into a drum circle.”
“After our first show, I was out in Venice Beach for the Grammys and I saw a drum circle and I thought, ‘Bingo, that’s my next thing,’ ” explains Jacobs, a professional photographer, standing in the gym of the jail’s Mental Health Transition Unit on the grounds of the old boot camp just east of the jail.
The photos on the gym’s yellow cinderblock walls reflect a narrow range of subject matter by necessity. “Our canvas was super-limited,” says Jacobs. Bars, fellow prisoners, plants from the garden, the therapy dogs Jacobs brought in one day....
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