Teina Pora, Louise Nicholas and four prisoners from Christchurch are featuring in a photographic exhibition that opened on Friday, 7 August 2015, at the Gus Fisher gallery in Auckland.
The exhibition, ‘No Free Man: To No One Deny Justice’, marks the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215, and the photos were taken by photographer Nigel Swinn.
Mr Swinn, who worked closely with the Department of Corrections to capture the images of the prisoners, has focused on faces to tell the story of how the Magna Carta has affected law in New Zealand.
“We wanted to put at the heart of this exhibition people who had truly experienced the rule of law in our society and put a face to the notion of justice when it’s not just an absolute human right but, for better of worse, a profound influence on our lives,” said Mr Swinn.
The four prisoners – two from Christchurch Women’s Prison and two from the Matapuna Unit at Christchurch Men’s Prison – are also involved in the new series of the Maori television programme, Songs from the Inside, to be broadcast later this year.
Prof David V Williams of the Faculty of Law at the University of Auckland, said the exhibition was a contribution to events invoking the spirit of the Magna Carta, with a particular focus on people and freedoms in Aotearoa New Zealand.
“These photos ask you to reflect on justice and injustice, on criminals and victims. No legal system is perfect, but miscarriages of justice are likely to occur more frequently where citizens do not care about justice or injustice, where advocates of victims do not speak up, and where lawyers for prosecution and defence do not vigorously argue the merits of the evidence tendered to judges and jurors.”
Crossing boundaries was a central theme of the exhibition, explained Dr Erin Griffey, curator of the exhibition and head of art history at the University of Auckland.
“While the accused have a voice through the legal system, prisoners are often both physically and figuratively behind bars: invisible and mute to the public. This exhibition gives prisoners a public and humane presence.”
Associate professor of law, Scott Optican, commended the exhibition.
“Public discourse around criminal justice often transforms those involved with that system into abstract representations of guilt, innocence, victimisation, menace or custody,” he said.
“Regardless of one’s perspective on such matters, this collection of portraits reminds us of the human actors whose lives have been touched, and in many cases irrevocably transformed, by their encounters with criminal law processes.”
The ‘No Free Man’ exhibition runs until 26 September 2015 at the Gus Fisher Gallery, Shortland Street, Auckland.