February 14 – March 22
An exhibition of photographs, Thou Art…Will Give…documents the Eastern State Penitentiary, a former prison in Philadelphia, PA. Through this body of photographs Eric Kunsman captures the atmosphere experienced by the prisoners during the extended period when the penitentiary was active, in part depicted by photographs of entries from the Warden’s logbooks from the 1800s.
In operation from 1829 until 1971, Eastern State was considered to be the world’s first true penitentiary, and was early characterized by a revolutionary theory of incarceration dubbed the “Pennsylvania system,” which encouraged separate confinement as a form of rehabilitation. At its completion, the building was the largest and most expensive public structure ever erected in the United States, and quickly became a model for more than 300 prisons worldwide. Founded on the religious principles of self-correction and penance, the prison was comprised of solitary confinement cells meant to suggest religious inspiration through the use of a single glass skylight in each cell, a daily representation of a watchful and ever-present “eye of God.”
Currently, Kunsman is a photographer and book artist based in Rochester, New York. He works at the Rochester Institute of Technology as a Lecturer for the Visual Communications Studies Department at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, and is an adjunct professor for the School of Photographic School of Arts and Sciences.