Incarcerated Populations

American Prison Perspectives


Christoph Gielen

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My goal with this project is to combine rarely accessible aerial views of maximum security prisons with seldom-heard assessments by industry insiders of the architectural aims behind state of the art confinement facilities—and thereby offering a glimpse into the dry "science" of building maximum security prisons. My photography of these facilities will be presented on-line, as an exhibition, and as an integral part of a symposium series featuring interest groups on both sides of the debate surrounding solitary confinement.

At a time when the U.S. prison population is peaking at unprecedented numbers, this work will demonstrate how prison design and architecture reflect political discourse, economic priorities, cultural sentiments, and social insecurities, and how, in turn, these constructed environments also become statements about a society. I aim to provide an examination of these otherwise off-limits locations at the intersection of art and politics, and to encourage active involvement in the discussion about the U.S. prison system.


Christoph Gielen specializes in photographic aerial studies of urban development in its relation to land use, exploring the intersection of art and environmental politics.

Gielen’s pictures and feature articles about him have appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Lapham’s Quarterly, and The New Yorker. His work was presented on CNN International TV, and he is the author of Ciphers (monograph, D.A.P. 2012). Gielen has also been a speaker at discussion forums such as the BMW Guggenheim Lab in New York.

His award-winning pictures have been exhibited at institutions and galleries both in the U.S. and in Europe.

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Current Projects

3 Millimeters

Photographer: Greg Kahn

Three extra millimeters of water every year will make land vanish. It will swallow communities. It will change environmental habitats forever. For townspeople along the inner-coastal region of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, the impact of sea level rise is no longer an abstract worry debated by politicians. They see the land becoming more saturated beneath their feet.

A Woman's War

Photographer: Elizabeth D. Herman

A Woman's War documents the lives of women engaged in recent conflicts worldwide, as well as thei...

Beauty and the Beast
Wildflowers and Climate Change

Photographer: Rob Badger and Nita Winter

How is climate change impacting wildflower ecosystems on our public lands? What will be lost?


Between River and Sea

Photographer: Michael Hanson

Between River and Sea focuses on life in and around Apalachicola, FL. For over a century, an independent, hand-built industry has drifted through the shallow waters of the Apalachicola Bay. This bay, one of the most productive and unique ecosystems in the country, once produced 10% of the nation’s oysters and 90% of Florida's. Today, only a handful of oystermen have work and this community struggles to maintain its tradition and livelihood. Oysters need a mix of freshwater and saltwater. They depend on this balance but the freshwater coming down the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) Basin has been drastically cut short by a series of dams and overuse in Georgia and Alabama. As droughts persist alongside a constant pressure from a major metropolitan city at the headwaters, the Apalachicola Bay clings to a trickle of water. The project aims to connect users throughout the watershed and expose what's at the end of the river. It also aims to celebrate the bay and a lifestyle that revolves around the perfect mix of fresh and salt water.

Cameras without Borders
Photography for Healing and Peace

Photographer: Eberhard Riedel

Recurrent racism, tribalism and fundamentalist ideology are tearing apart the human fabric. Over ...

Capturing the Killing Fields

Photographer: Jason Houston

In 1980 MacKenley and Simone Leng fled their native Cambodia, having survived the 1976-1979 Khmer...

Changing Perspectives
Energy in the American West

Photographer: Jamey Stillings

Changing Perspectives is an aerial and ground based examination of large-scale renewable energy d...

Choosing Hope
Reclaiming the Duwamish River

Photographer: Tom Reese

The Duwamish River can be hard to love, but it flows powerfully through the hearts of those who k...

Epidemic - TB in the Global Community

Photographer: David Rochkind

The statistics are alarming.  In 2009, there were 9.4 million new cases of tuberculosis (TB)...

Fracking: Forgotten on the Bakken

Photographer: Bruce Farnsworth

Forgotten on the Bakken illustrates the environmental and cultural impacts of fracking, an industry now underway in 20 states. This project begins on the northern great plains but is representative of experiences throughout fracking country. Traditions of open space and agrarian livelihoods have been disrupted by a flurry of activities associated with the high-volume hydraulic fracturing industry. North Dakota—situated on the Bakken geologic formation—is now the second highest oil-producing state in the nation.

Fruit of the Orchard to Dying for Profit

Photographer: Tammy Cromer-Campbell

This book is an extended essay, photographed with a Holga camera, on a small African-American com...

Heaven’s Gain

Photographer: Justin Maxon

(2012-ongoing). July 5th, 2013. “Hey Bro, well its 7 months today since you was taken away from us . . . I know you don’t want to see us down & heart broken. It is going to get harder b4 it get easy but we trying."

La Carretera
Life Along Peru's Interoceanic Highway

Photographer: Roberto (Bear) Guerra

"Highways, of course, alter everything. They change patterns of human settlement, hasten the dest...

Leaving the Life

Photographer: Tim Matsui

Leaving the Life uses the power of stories to foster empathy among stakeholders and build unexpected alliances, strengthening the anti-trafficking movement and efforts to effectuate institutional and cultural change.

Louisiana, Purchased

Photographer: Terri Garland

This project examines the consequences of greed and neglect in relation to both the loss of vital...

Mustang, the last Tibet

Photographer: Filippo Mutani

Upper Mustang is also known as a "Tibet outside the Tibetan Border". It resisted the Chinese invasion and it has been the base for the C.I.A. financed guerrilla against China during the sixties. The last King reigned until 2008, and he still lives in Lo Manthang. Being forbidden to foreigners until 1992, the Mustang is also the last Tibet enclave because it has managed to preserve original tibetan culture and buddhism practically untouched since the middle age.

Nowhere People

Photographer: Greg Constantine

As multi-ethnic societies continue to reshape cultures around the world, the basic rights afforde...

Our Warming World

Photographer: Daniel Beltrá

My project asks us to consider the landscape as a place we have altered, all while striving to co...

Ross Island and the Future of the McMurdo Sound Region

Photographer: Alasdair Turner

We have entered a time when places the least near us beckon us to understand them, to feel them so that while we tred on our part of the Earth they are constantly with us and with our choices. Ross Island and the McMurdo Sound Region and the science being conducted there embody what is left of our critical and fragile ecosystems and our attempts to understand them. They are not land for a nation but a place for the world. This project is intended to emotionally and scientifically engage citizens of every nation about why this place and the incredible science that is being conducted there matters. It will give life to and investigate the science of the region from the earliest expeditions to today’s ongoing research.

Salvation Fish

Photographer: Paul Colangelo

Salvation Fish is a three-pronged project with the goal of raising the public profile an...

Shadows Of A Revolution

Photographer: Paul Gregory Newman

The fall of Nicolae Ceausescu took place in December of 1989 and the country slowly unraveled. Sh...

Sin & Salvation In Baptist Town

Photographer: Matt Eich

Since early 2010 I have returned to the town of Greenwood, Mississippi to explore the contemporar...

The People of Clouds

Photographer: Matt Black

The People of Clouds documents the unraveling of one the world's oldest farming cultures...

The Truth Told Project

Photographer: Sarah Fretwell

The Truth Told Project was born in December of 2010 when award-winning photographer Sarah Fretwel...


Photographer: Dina Kantor

Treece, Kansas is a former mining town with a population of around 140. Its last mine closed in t...

Wolf Haven

Photographer: Annie Marie Musselman

In the wake of the exotic animal trade, a sanctuary exists in Washington State where wolves are r...

World View of Global Warming

Photographer: Gary Braasch

The goal of World View of Global Warming is to illustrate the physical changes and compelling sci...