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‘Grace Before Dying’ displays kindness behind bars

Staff reporter

Published: Monday, March 19, 2012

Updated: Monday, March 19, 2012 12:03

Gage Gallery visitor observes a quilt made my inmates.  Photo by James Risley

Photo by James Risley

Gage Gallery visitor observes a quilt made my inmates.

The Gage Gallery’s newest exhibit features the work of Lori Waselchuk, a photographer whose work has been featured in Newsweek, LIFE, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times who turned a magazine assignment into a project with a message of social justice.

Waselchuk’s exhibition, titled “Grace Before Dying” focuses on the volunteer work inmates do for other sick and dying inmates in the hospice prison system. Though her photographs focus on the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, the exhibit’s message can be interpreted nationally. Waselchuk worked on the project for two years.

“Once I completed the magazine assignment, I wanted to stay longer in order to tell a deeper story and try to have my photography reach the emotional intensity that I was seeing from these incarcerated men,” she said. “I realized I was really interested in photographing how we can connect with one another.”

The show fits with this year’s gallery theme. Umbrage Editions in Brooklyn, who organized “The Innocents: Headshots” exhibition earlier in the year, notified Roosevelt Gage gallery founder and director, Michael Ensdorf, about this show.

“I want visitors to the gallery to learn that prisoners are caring for other prisoners in a kind and humane way,” he said. “It’s strong documentary work about a subject that not too many people think about.”

Waselchuk added, “It’s quite an honor to be featured at the Gage Gallery. It has a very strong photography history and also seems interested in issues of social justice.”

The exhibit features 11 large format photographs and two quilts made by incarcerated hospice volunteers. The quilting project financially sustains the hospice program and adds a different value, aside from money, as well.  

“They add the voice of the men that the story is about,” she said. “It’s nice to see the work of their hands exhibited with the photographs.”

“Grace Before Dying” will be featured in the gallery until April 28. The gallery is open Monday-Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

“For me, this is less a story about incarceration than it is a story about all of us,” Waselchuk said. “I don’t want people to see an other. I want people to recognize themselves and the work that they’ve mended.”

Waselchuk’s work can be found at

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