E BLOCK by Mark Perrott

E BLOCK - photographs by Mark Perrott
April 5 through June 14, 2013

*An artist talk and book-signing will be held on Friday, May 10 from 6:00 to 8:00pm at Pittsburgh Filmmakers

From 2005 to 2007 Western Penitentiary, located just downriver from PNC Park, closed its door as a maximum security prison. But while it was open, the PA Department of Corrections had 43 cells - known as the E Block - reserved for first-time offenders and parole violators. Prisoners would spend three days to two weeks there, until the system could classify them, and then either move them to another cellblock or another institution. Photographer Mark Perrott spent a year there recording and transcribing the prisoners' words and drawings scrawled on the walls of the E Block.
 
The walls of the 5'x8' cells were covered almost entirely with graffiti. "I read every square inch of each wall," says Perrott, who photographed every surface. "They are mostly about rage, longing, hurt, and remorse, accompanied sometimes by child-like drawings that depicted bigotry, violence, abuse, and redemption," he says. "These words are raw and difficult - unfiltered voices of men in their first days of separation and incarceration." The institution reopened in 2007 due to an exploding population of individuals incarcerated for substance abuse, Perrott explains.
 
Since 1971 Perrott has been documenting Pittsburgh's citizens, and its rich industrial landscape. In the 1980s, he gave special attention to the life and death struggle of steel manufacturing in the Mon Valley, and published ELIZA, an extended photo essay about the Jones and Laughlin steel mill. In 1989 the Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site published HOPE ABANDONED, a culmination of Perrott's four-year-long investigation of Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary