“I am Innocent”: Photographs from Centurion Diane Bladecki

October 7 - October 22

Photographs from Centurion: “I am Innocent”

Diane Bladecki has had a camera in her hand for most of her life. For the past 12 years, her focus and mission have been to capture on film the humanity, grace and dignity of those who have been imprisoned for crimes they did not commit: innocent men and women who had their freedom taken from them by a judicial system that wrongly convicted them.

Diane was at the prison gates of Graterford prison when Lou Thomas walked free after 40 years. She was at the courthouse when, after 39 years David Bryant was freed for 18 months before being sent back to prison, a second injustice the same as the first. She spoke with Clarence Brandley who spent 10 years on Texas death row. He told her things he had never shared, about coming within 5 days of execution – twice – and how it felt to be the first person walked off of Texas death row. She walked through a meadow in upstate NY with Kerry Max Cook, his son K.J. on his shoulders, after 22 years on Texas death row. She listened and documented his life as a free man with his family. She heard Marcus Washington speak about what he did for 29 years to spend more time in solitary confinement because it was easier than being in a cell block, praying that someone would answer his plea for freedom.

A mixed media artist, Diane’s Indiana spirit and tenacity get her through doors. She breaks down barriers, and uncovers closely held tales, and unearths dreams lost. She goes where she is not invited (or not allowed) to reveal the road to freedom through photography. Her camera, an extension of herself, is soon forgotten. The result is a record of struggle, hope and uncertainty. It captures the goodness and grace of men and women who have lost something we often take for granted. It asks “What is freedom?”

Who remains after wrongful conviction when freedom is finally won? What is life like after 20 years, 30 years, 40 years in prison after the innocent in prison have been freed? It begs us to consider, or to imagine how often we’ve been accused of something we didn’t do.

Diane’s association with Centurion, who since 1980 has freed 54 innocent men and women, extends beyond the individuals seen in these photographs to their wives, children, parents and friends. It is a family affair. Think of how important your freedom is as you view these extraordinary people, returned to freedom through the unswerving efforts of Centurion, in Diane’s work.

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