One of the first nominations we received for our campaign Hundred Heroines: Celebrating Women in Photography Today was from #Girlgaze, who nominated Isadora Kosofsky for her work as a documentary photographer. Isadora’s practice favours long-term documentaries through which she draws the viewer into a different world – a world that is at times uncomfortable, unnerving and uneasy, but always a world that evokes a strong emotional response.
Isadora’s heroinic qualities are many, but the one that has caught our eye is the way she tackles an issue that has historically been the preserve of male practitioners – the US penal system.
Isadora was the youngest journalist to ever work in a penal setting, documenting life in a Romanian youth prison when she was only 16. Since then, she has worked in a variety of settings, many of them institutional, where she examines the “intersection of personal and political conflicts”. A theme that runs through her work is that of a powerful narrative guided by the relationship between those on the inside and those on the outside of the system. Through her documentaries, she offers us new insights into the lives of those affected, insights she has acquired by immersing herself into the community. Via Isadora’s lens, we witness the system through the eyes of a child, a juvenile, a partner or a parent. We share the sense of despair, the heartbreak and the moments of happiness.
Her work forces us to ask questions about the care system, the health system, the penal system, to re-evaluate our own attitudes and to be immensely grateful for what we have. We cannot look at Isadora’s work and remain detached for we are right there with the other characters of her visual discourse.
In the US, more than 2.7m children have an incarcerated parent; there are 300,000 such children in Florida alone; ‘bonding visits’ allow for a relationship between parent and child to develop, that is much closer to normal parenting, than would be achieved through ordinary visitations. Working closely with the organisation Children of Inmates, Isadora documents the relationships between parents and children around these visits, some of which take place only once every three months. I defy anyone not to shed a tear after seeing “Still My Mother, Still My Father”.
Unsurprisingly, Isadora has won many awards and contributed to numerous publications, both of which are listed on her website. It is easy to see why she has been nominated for #hundredheroines. Thank you #Girlgaze for bringing us such an amazing heroine and thank you Isadora for sharing your stories with us.