Convicts Write Letters Of Advice To Their Past Selves
Commercial photographer Trent Bell has created a series of powerful images that shows us what a group of U.S. Convicts would tell their past selves if they could turn back the hands of time. In the “Reflect” project, each inmate was first asked to pen a letter to their past selves. Bell then took their portraits and had the text of their letters edited into the images, serving as powerful testaments to their regrets, their mistakes, and their new-found wisdom.
The series is uncharacteristic for Bell, who is a successful architectural photographer. The idea arose in early 2013, when something unthinkable happened – his friend, an educated professional, husband and father of four, was sentenced to 36 years in prison. Bell was struck not only by his friend’s bad decisions and lass of freedom, but also by his new-found understanding of just how easily everything can go wrong.
“There were times when my son would look up and smile at me,” explained Bell, “and the finality of my friend’s situation would rush into my head and I would hear a cold thin voice say: ‘there, but for the grace of God, go I…’”
His series is perhaps most striking for its emotional and moral value; “Our bad choices can contain untold loss, remorse, and regret,” the photographer explains on his website, “but the positive value of these bad choices might be immeasurable is we can face them, admit to them, learn from them and find the strength to share.”