Crime and redemption
With my camera I’ve begun to show how the method of acting in prison can be a useful tool to changing the way the criminal mind works.
I started this project six years ago when I was working as the photographer for a video documentary group.
In Europe prison theatre is considered to be a highly motivotional theraputic method of working with violent incarcerated offenders. It has produced positive results for educating prisoners to become functioning members of mainstream society by teaching them how to read, how to work collaboratively, and how to be responsible for each other, as well as themselves.
Prison theatre is about redemption. Through the process of learning how to play a role they learn how to make wiser decisions when they are released back into society.
In 1988, at the prison, Volterra, (similar to Sing Sing or Folson Prison in California), Armando Punzo, founded the Compagnia della Fortezza, a theatre company comprised of dangerous felons and hard core “lifers”.
I had the opportunity to travel and document the company on tour across Italy.
One week they were performing in a small town close to the Italian Border. During the day they were free to walk around the square without being guarded. They were free to socialize in local cafes. In the evening they performed to sold-out crowds.
After the performances they were driven to the local prison where they slept in cells as if the prison was more like a hotel – but around them were prisoners and guards.
I asked a prisoner why no one tried to escape since they had chances. He said, “Why should I run? Where would I go? Twenty years I’ve lived in prison. Now I have something to live for. Life has meaning. ”
An extraordinary prison rehabilitation program is changing hearts and minds of hardened criminals. Part of its technique is to integrate the convicts who have proven they can be trusted with good behavior into mainstream society when they perform outside the prisons walls with the blessing of Italian society.
At that time I understood little about the prisoners lives. I was inexperienced with the reality of life behind prison walls. I had no context about how they viewed their situations or why they had committed serious crimes and at first I couldn’t tell if prison theatre would really be able to make a difference in the long run.
The question I kept asking was whether or not criminal behavior can be modified over long term participation in the theatre program.
Clara Vannucci was born and raised in Florence, Italy in 1985.
She has always been interested in photography, since she was very young. After a degree in graphic design, at the University of Architecture of Florence, she decided to move to New York City.
Her most important project is about Theatre in prison in Tuscany, with her camera she begun to show how the method of acting in prison can be a useful tool for changing the way the criminal mind works. She started to take pictures in prisons like Rikers Island, NYC, to continue her project about Crime and Redemption. Her interests are mostly based on the diversity of people and their cultures. And she finds in Photography the best way to show stories. For this reason she picks tough subjects and issues and tells her stories traveling around the world. From Florence, where she documented the issue of political Refugees, to countries like Madagascar, Mali, Etiopia, Cameroon and most recently, in Yemen, documenting the problem of Water and the Shark Finning. She has been published by Repubblica, L’Espresso, Touring Club, Private, La stampa, Class, Choc Magazine, The New York Times, The New York Times Lens. Now she lives between NYC and Italy. In NYC she is working as assistant to photojournalist.