In early 2013, commercial photographer Trent Bell was shocked by the news that a friend — an educated professional, a husband and a father of four children — had been sentenced to 36 years in prison. Over the proceeding months, Bell found himself haunted by not only his friend’s bad decision and loss of freedom, but also moments in his own life when things could have easily taken a bad turn.
“There were time when my son would look up and smile at me,” recalls Bell, “and the finality of my friend’s situation would rush into my head and I would hear a cold thin voice say: ‘…there, but for the grace of God, go I…'”
Bell, who is known for his architectural photography in publications such as the Conde Nast Traveler, Design New England, and the New York Times, soon conceived of a photo project that would merge large-scale portraits of inmates in the Maine prison system with handwritten letters the convicts composed as though writing to their younger selves.
“Our bad choices can contain untold loss, remorse and regret,” says Bell, “but the positive value of these bad choices might be immeasurable if we can face them, admit to them, learn from them and find the strength to share.”
Visit trentbellphotography to see more portraits, as well as a video of how the project came together.
Learn more about how Kairos Prison Ministry brings the love, hope and faith of Jesus Christ into the lives of prisoners and their families at Our Approach to Prison Ministry.