Interview by Raqchela Corbu-Miles
…A Boy of Great Promise a photo series about the transition period of life after prison. Canadian born photojournalist Cory Wright met Owen, after his release from maximum security in 2013. Wright sought to challenge the notion of “paying your debt to society” through considered imagery and an intimate approach.
“That’s a common term that his or hers debt to society has been paid and the more I read and learnt about it, I realised that Owen’s ‘debt’ is ongoing,” tells Wright.
“It’s evident in the limited employment opportunities, social stigma and so on. The effects are ongoing, and a it’s a form of punishment that’s residual— it doesn’t stop when you finish parole or walk out of prison.”
Owen was outspoken about prisoner’s rights and wrote articles whilst incarcerated. He was enthusiastic on the idea of Wright’s series. But what Cory witnessed was contradictory to the ‘Owen’ in transition.
“Prison made him really docile and disconnected. It stripped him of his identity.
“Owen loved camping when we started to forge a friendship, he had an apartment in Brisbane but he preferred to camp, I guess he felt to confined amongst walls.
“We became close, we camped together, and I even slept at his mother’s house in Victoria. Relationships are a huge factor when documenting, but at times I would get frustrated when it was just he and I because we were the subjects of each other’s actions.
“When we went camping with S, his girlfriend at the time, that was different and interesting and I could just sit and photograph.”
Wright states that he was able to sit and photograph after he had developed the bond prior to reaching that level of comfort to just be the photographer.
“Darcy did The Julie Project it was a phenomenal effort and Isadora – both very immersive artists and at the start of my career I was naïve in thinking I could just step in and take pictures.”
The series also shows pictures of Owen’s artefacts through life including the redacted booking image, his Grade Three report card and a card he gave to his mother whom he hadn’t prior to prison.
“People always ask what he did and [it] doesn’t matter, it’s not why I did this, I don’t want people’s preconceived ideas influenced before they see the images of Owen.”