International launch of Bedford-based photographer’s new work

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Edgar Martins
The journal accompanies the new exhibition

A Bedford-based photographer is launching his most ambitious and experimental project to date, developed with the participation of inmates of HMP Birmingham and their families.

‘What Photography & Incarceration have in Common with an Empty Vase’ is Edgar Martins‘ new multifaceted body of work which has been developed over a period of two years.

The exhibition will launch in Lisbon, Portugal, before moving to Macau in China and onto Geneva, Switzerland.

The internationally renowned award-winning artist has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale, London’s Somerset House, the V&A and at the National Media Museum.



Born in Portugal and brought up in Macau, China, Edgar moved to the UK in 1996 to study for an MA at the Royal College of Art.

For this project he’s collaborated with Grain Projects and HM Prison Birmingham (the largest Category B prison in the Midlands), as well as the inmates and their families.

A number of other individuals and organisations including charities, colleges, universities and youth centres have also been involved.

By giving a voice to inmates and their families and address prison as a set of social relations, rather than a mere physical space, Martins proposes to rethink and counter the sort of imagery normally associated with incarceration.

Speaking of his work, Edgar said, “This project wilfully circumvents images whose sole purpose is to confirm the already held opinions within dominant ideology about crime and punishment (violence, drugs, criminality, race) – an approach that only serves to reinforce the act of photographing and photography itself as apotropaic devices.”

This ambitious and thought-provoking project has now been published as a two-book publication, which included a copy of an inmate’s journal.

‘What Photography & Incarceration have in Common with an Empty Vase’ contains over 500 pages, 130 photographs and documents and is supplied in a genuine prison bag, along with a surprise element.

This publication will support exhibitions of the work at Galeria Filomena Soares (Lisbon – Nov 19), the Macau Museum of Art (Macau, China – Jun 20), the Museum of National and Contemporary Art (Lisbon – Dec 20), the Geneva Photography Centre (Geneva – Jan 21), amongst others.

Order the book here.