A version of the following post originally appeared on the Prison Fellowship blog (a/k/a, my day job). Check it out sometime!
What advice would you give to a younger you? If you could give yourself a warning, or point a juvenile version of you in a particular direction, what would you say? Would it make a difference?
The question became painfully real to Trent Bell, an architectural photographer in Maine, when a longtime family friend was convicted of a crime and sentenced to over 30 years in prison. He wondered what his friend would have told himself if he had the opportunity. He also wondered what stories other inmates would want to tell their former selves.
These questions were the impetus for “Reflect: Convicts’ Letters to Their Younger Selves,” a photo project featuring portraits of prisoners of the Maine State Prison set on a backdrop of their own, handwritten notes to their adolescent versions.
The stark portraits of the inmates in prison-issued uniforms effectively reveal the consequences of advice not taken, of poor moral choices, and of poorer acquaintances made. The words penned are as honest and touching as they are haunting, and are spoken with a wisdom that only comes from lessons learned the hard way.