From the review by Leah Ollman for the Los Angeles Times:
When we talk about mass incarceration, we often forget the individuals who, one by one, constitute the mass. In her series “Black Is the Day, Black Is the Night,” photographer Amy Elkins fleshes out statistics, conjuring portraits of particular prisoners’ inner worlds — their memories, dreams, fears and desires.
The series is one of six projects in the acutely intelligent and emotionally penetrating show “Amy Elkins: Photographs of Contemporary Masculinity” at Orange Coast College, curated by Tyler Stallings, director of school’s Frank M. Doyle Arts Pavilion. The foundation for “Black Is the Day” (2009-16) is the correspondence Elkins maintained with men at least a decade into their life and death row sentences. She transposes facets of identity revealed in their letters into visual form, creating composite photographs that represent, for instance, one inmate’s childhood memory of being subsumed by the sea under a darkening sky. A man who wrote poetry in prison is portrayed via snippets of text barely legible in gray against black: “Like a beast among beasts I go! Am I a beast?” Every image, most pronouncedly the portraits of the men themselves, is marked by compromise — pixelation or blur or another form of indeterminacy. The amount of “image loss,” as Elkins describes it, reflects the proportion of years the men have served to total years lived. Erosion of the self and suppression of spirit are utterly clear, just as the pictures are not.