Thursday, November 20, 2008

Amnesty International Sponsors Photo Exhibition Addressing the DP

Amnesty International is sponsoring a photography exhibition that focuses on the death penalty, a topic the group considers high on its priority list. The exhibition features the work of photographer Scott Langley and runs until Nov. 21 in Belk and Gray Academic Pavilions. Langley is a photojournalist and grassroots human rights activist based in Boston. He has served as an Amnesty International USA State Death Penalty Coordinator since 2004, first in North Carolina and currently in Massachusetts.

He works on a national and international level to end capital punishment and educate others about its effects.

The documentary project showcased in this exhibition, called The Death Penalty Photography Documentary Project, consists of more than 1,000 images that were taken over an 8 year period. According to Langley's Web site, it began as a college art project that required students to creatively address a human rights issue.

It is the largest known collection of photos about the death penalty in the United States. A selection of these photos is being shown at Elon, ranging from photos of the inside of a death chamber to events taking place on the streets.

"It's not a glamorous issue, because it's full of so many legal matters, but it's important that people know about it," said Mary Lyons, coordinator of Elon’s chapter of Amnesty International.

The exhibition has been shown all over the country, as well as in a few European countries, before it made its way to Elon. Amnesty International has exhibited Langley's work at several other universities, including Harvard and Cornell.

Amnesty International strongly opposes capital punishment. Its Web site refers to the death penalty as "the ultimate denial of human rights."

"In the course of this project, I have chosen to simply capture what I have been seeing in my own journey of working against capital punishment," Langley said. "With every rally I have been in, with every execution vigil I have stood with, and with all the incredible people I have met along the way, I increasingly feel the importance to tell these stories and bring the images to those who were unable to see what I saw."

Despite the dark nature of the photographs, Langley views his work as optimistic because he believes they can affect change.

"I just hope it makes people think about it and tests their beliefs on the issue," Lyons said. "We're not trying to change people's minds, just raise awareness that it happens."

Langley has actively worked in opposition to the death penalty since 1999. In 2004, he and his wife co-founded the Raleigh Catholic Worker Hospitality House, where families of death row prisoners can get free shelter, food and support.

Langley travels within and outside of the United States to speak about capital punishment, the work he does to end executions and his photography documentary project.

(source: The Elon Pendulum)

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