Chris Aluka Berry is a documentary photographer based in Atlanta, Georgia whose long form essays challenge cultural norms and racial stereotypes by exploring race, class, and faith within underrepresented communities. Second Chances: Josh’s Salvation, documents Joshua Reynold’s life in prison. His hope is that this project can show the humanity of the prison population and the love and empathy than can result from programs such as the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation program. We asked Chris some questions, and are excited to share his answers below.
Tell us how you first connected to the Griffin Museum.
I first learned about the Griffin Museum when Paula Tognarelli contacted me to ask if she could showcase my work, “Second Chances: Josh’s Salvation.”
How do you involve photography in your everyday life? Can you tell us about any images or artists that have caught your attention recently?
I engage photography in my everyday life by teaching photography at PACE Academy to middle school students. I carry my camera with me often. And I make my living as a photographer so I’m shooting something most days of the week.
Please tell us a little about your series Second Chances: Josh’s Salvation, and how it was conceived.
This project started when I was working as a photojournalist at The State Newspaper in Columbia, SC. I had spent a lot of time in the horse communities in Camden, SC, when I found out about the prison program, the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation Program. I had worked on several projects that involved life in prison, and have always had a deep love for horses and other animals. It took several years to get the warden to give me permission to come into the prison and let me work on the project. Sometimes persistence pays off. In this case it resulted in me spending a year going back and forth into the prison to tell Josh’s story.
Has there been a Griffin Museum exhibition that has particularly engaged or moved you?
Unfortunately, I have yet to see the exhibitions of the Griffin Museum. I live in Atlanta and don’t have the opportunity to travel to Boston much. Now that I know about the Griffin I plan on following along with the exhibitions and I hope to be able to visit the museum in person soon.
What is your favorite place to escape to?
My favorite place to escape to is the Appalachian mountains of Western North Carolina.
What is a book, song or visual obsession you have at the moment?
My current visual obsession is my ongoing photo series, which will be published as a book in 2023, entitled, Affrilachia: The Remnant that Remains. For the past five years, I have documented African American communities in the southern Appalachian mountains.
If you could be in a room with anyone to have a conversation, who would it be and what would you talk about?
If I could have a conversation with anyone, it would be Jesus Christ of Nazareth. I would love to know if he really is the son of God. If so, what is God like? And what does the after-life look like? I would also be curious to know what his favorite food is.
Does he like chocolate? And I would most definitely try and make his photograph.