Isadora Kosofsky  |  2015 Commended

I want to go home

“I want to go home. I’m not with my mom or my family. I love my older brother more than anybody in the world.” Vinny, just 13, shares his thoughts sitting in a juvenile detention center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he is held after stabbing a man who assaulted his mother. Vinny confides, “When my mom was being beat up, I was so scared. I wanted to defend my mom. I’m tired of seeing my mom get hurt.” While in juvenile detention, Vinny’s brother, David, age 19, is incarcerated in an adult facility for another offense. After his father went to prison, David was in foster care; eventually, David's mother, Eve, got custody, and David joined Vinny and two younger siblings,Michael and Elycia.

After growing up with pain and abandonment, Vinny and David yearn for love and a restored family. Their relationship is a unique comfort to each of them. Vinny and David try to embrace their youth, confiding in each other and spending time together. Vinny describes David as a father figure, and David views Vinny as the only person who appreciates him. Shortly after Vinny’s release, the court ordered that he live with his paternal aunt, three hours from his family in Albuquerque. Vinny and his family became conditioned to a paradox of love and loss. When one member is incarcerated, the whole family is too. Powerless to intervene, relatives and lovers wait hours for phone calls,aching for legal decisions and release, sometimes with an unknown date. Incarceration is both a solitary and collective experience. Detainment isn’t localized just to a facility, for it leaves profound psychological effects, as it did on Vinny’s and his older brother David’s development.

When I first saw Vinny in the booking section of a juvenile detention center in Albuquerque, I felt an immediate connection. After speaking to him, I was taken aback by his wisdom and sensitivity. At 13, when asked about his life goals, Vinny expressed a desire to work in astronomy or to own a business someday. My long-term documentation of Vinny and his older brother David is approaching its 4th year. Vinny, now almost age 17, has reunited with his brother and now lives with him. Vinny, straddling adolescence and adulthood, is awaiting his first child with his girlfriend of two years.

Humanistic documentations of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated youth are somewhat limited. If I receive the Ian Parry Scholarship, I would like to begin a photo essay reflecting similar themes about a formerly incarcerated adolescent female. In my work shadowing brothers Vinny and David, I have explored masculinity and brotherly connection. In my new series, I seek to explore girlhood and sisterly or matriarchal bonds in the context of incarceration, youth and hardship.