Stuart Homer: Back Behind Bars

The Stuart Homer Photography staff photo, HMP Lancaster Castle Over the years, one of my favourite corporate event photography jobs has been to document and support the work of some of Her Majesty’s Prison Officers. This has included photographing a number of staff awards events. The most memorable by far though was a package of work I undertook for the Governor of HMP Lancaster Castle Prison, documenting its closure.

Today I set foot back onto A-Wing, five years since my last visit ‘inside’. Back then there were still a number of prisoners awaiting transfer. I had my own officer escorting me as I photographed the staff and some of their families. Those officer’s dedication was incredible, even though they were all facing transfers to other facilitates, retirement and redundancy.

The castle today still hosts working courts. In place of the prison is now an open public venue which hosts music events, theatre and open air cinema. It also hosts regular tours, such we experienced today. Much of the tour concentrated on the mediaeval history of the castle, it’s early setting as court and prison. Expert historian and guide Graham Kemp talked about many of the high profile cases which have been tried within those walls, from the Pendle Witches to the Birmingham Six.

For me personally though, the climax of the visit was stepping back onto the now silent A-Wing. The big ‘Oh Wow’ moment was seeing the framed staff photograph commissioned by the Governor in 2011. My photograph. It wasn’t hard to spot – it’s in pride of place and the first thing you’d see upon entering that hallway.

For me, seeing the picture brought back a flood of memories of the staff I met and photographed. Their stories, the hidden parts of the castle they took me into and most of all their pride. It also reminded me of the strange sight of a professionally attired photographer donning a safety harness and being hoisted to street-light level by cherry picker to photograph them all.  Good times.