Photography: Zack Taylor
There is a certain social stigma that follows ex-cons. Many who have served time refer to themselves as being ‘locked out’ of mainstream society upon their release from prison. Using photography as a vehicle, I wanted to address this gap between society and its criminals within the scope of my religion. Mormon Ex-Convicts is a work that assesses the impact that a criminal history has upon church membership. It is a call to mainstream LDS society to extend a hand of fellowship to those who have been marginalized by our conservative culture.
These portraits, with the exception of Red and Gordon, are of individuals who responded to flyers I placed with various rehabilitation groups and parole offices. I had no preconceptions about how my subjects should look; I simply photographed whoever called me. Their appearances vary greatly, as do their histories and current situations. They share the common task, however, of reconciling their criminal pasts with the LDS culture in which they live.
— Zack Taylor, April 2008
“I have a testimony. It took going to rock bottom to get it, but I have a testimony. It was in prison that I first felt that God was leading me. I still had to do my share of the work, but it was like a 70/30 arrangement, with God leading the way.”
While in prison, Bruce was converted to the Book of Mormon. During his years in confinement, he read the book five times. Regarding the ward he now attends, Bruce says, “They’ve been great. They’ve been a huge blessing.”
“I became everything I ever wanted to be. Problem is I never wanted to be anything.”
“I am an inactive Latter-day Saint. I don’t exactly mainstream into the ward real well.”
“I’m active now. I went inactive because people treated me differently. They judged me for how I looked. If you have a certain look they don’t treat you the same. I finally decided not to do it for anyone but myself. I’m active again for my own reasons.”
“The most spiritual place I’ve been is jail; in there you have nothing but time. My mental state was clear and I felt free from selfishness. I started praying, saying ‘God, whatever you want.’”
Gordon is not a Mormon, but he’s Red’s best friend and has been in close contact with the Church for many years. He admits that he has never felt judged by the Church or its members. He jokes that if he ever did convert, God would give him a nice house and a pickup truck.
“I’ve been to church, I’ve been baptized, but once I started getting into trouble, people started looking at me differently. I got tattoos and people stopped talking to me.”