Image of Ellie Brown

Prisoners? Artists? Or Both?

“Too frequently we are put in this box… shunned as monsters, demons, the worst of the worst. But I’m a son, a father and a friend. And I can paint. I am kind. I am compassionate. I am human too”  

Ellie Brown has spent the last few months in HMP Whitemoor working with the residents to develop photography self-portraits and to explore identity in prison.  In this event for the Cambridge Festival of Ideas Ellie – through the medium of film and photography - took us behind the walls of this high-security prison to understand more about the individuals, their stories and their identities.  

Through discussion of her work, Ellie explored how labels are not fixed and that being imprisoned should not preclude you from being an artist, musician, poet,  friend, ‘human too’.  Ellie’s work highlighted how creativity can thrive even in the darkest of spaces; that something beautiful can be created not in spite of pain but because of it. Art allows individuals to convey visceral ideas – to communicate pain, vulnerability and the frailty of humanity. Words can be limiting but art can be liberating. 

She also screened a documentary film produced by MBP films about the project. Matt, the director, was there to explain his experience making the film. 

Ellie said: “It was a real pleasure to showcase the project, for the first time, at Jesus. Jesus has been very influential in my prison work  (and supportive of!) and I feel both pleased and privileged to be able to share all the work with wonderful friends, family and colleagues”.