Vinny and David:life and incarceration of a family

“Vinny and David” begins with Vinny, then 13, when he was incarcerated for stabbing his mother’s assailant, and shadows him and his older brother, David; the long-term photo essay focuses on the brothers’ lives in their family and community over five years in New Mexico.

“I want to go home. I’m not with my mom or my family. I love my older brother more than anybody in the world. I want to spend the night on the moon.” Vinny, just 13, shares his thoughts sitting in a juvenile detention center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Vinny confides, “When my mom was being beat up, I was so scared. I wanted to defend my mom. I’m tired of seeing my mom get hurt.” While in juvenile detention, Vinny’s older brother, David, age 19, is incarcerated in an adult facility. David, who was introduced to drug dealing at age 10, has been in and out of juvenile and adult correctional systems. After his father went to prison, David spent time in and out of the foster care; eventually, at 14, David's mother, Eve, was given custody. Shortly after Vinny’s release, the court ordered that live with his aunt, three hours from his family in Albuquerque. Just as Vinny’s absence impacts the family, David’s incarcerations leave the family in a culture of loss. When one member is incarcerated, the whole family is too. Powerless to intervene, Eve and David’s girlfriend wait hours for his phone calls, aching for legal decisions and release, sometimes with an unknown date. Incarceration is a solitary and collective experience that leaves profound psychological effects, as it has on Vinny and David’s development. David struggles as he attempts to abandon dealing drugs, wishing to give Felicia, and daughters, Lily and Mary Jane, “everything [he] always wanted…[and end] the whole cycle” Yet, change may, at this point, seem more daunting than remaining in a comfortable chaos. Eventually, after meeting his girlfriend, Krystle, Vinny left his aunt’s home and moved in with David. For the past five years, I have documented the relationship among youth, families and incarceration, focusing on lost intimacy and love as a locus to investigate humanistic elements of the criminal justice system. Vinny and David have grown up in an environment of loss and, yet yearn for love and a restored family. In the midst of turmoil, Vinny and David try to embrace their youth. Vinny describes David as a father figure, and David views Vinny as the only person who appreciates him.

© Isadora Kosofsky - Brothers Vinny and David stand together as the sky darkens before a summer storm.
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Brothers Vinny and David stand together as the sky darkens before a summer storm.

© Isadora Kosofsky - Image from the Vinny and David:life and incarceration of a family photography project
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Eve, Vinny’s mom, visits him during visitation at the Juvenile Detention Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “Mom, just get me out. Just get me out, Mom," cries Vinny, age 13.

© Isadora Kosofsky - Image from the Vinny and David:life and incarceration of a family photography project
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Eve cries after learning that the court will not allow Vinny to live with her and has ordered that he live with his paternal aunt. “I died when I lost my son. I have lost Vinny forever,” says Eve.

© Isadora Kosofsky - Image from the Vinny and David:life and incarceration of a family photography project
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Vinny, age 13, punches trash bins behind his new aunt’s home. Vinny finds ways to vent his anger about the pain of his past experiences. He finds it hard to escape the “empty feeling” he gets when he thinks or dreams about juvenile detention.

© Isadora Kosofsky - Eve holds Michael in the pool. Michael’s greatest wish is to receive “ a hug. I want a hundred hugs a day.”
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Eve holds Michael in the pool. Michael’s greatest wish is to receive “ a hug. I want a hundred hugs a day.”

© Isadora Kosofsky - David shaves his father, Dave's, head before David's trial. At the trial, David was proven innocent on his charges.
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David shaves his father, Dave's, head before David's trial. At the trial, David was proven innocent on his charges.

© Isadora Kosofsky - Image from the Vinny and David:life and incarceration of a family photography project
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Vinny, now 15, and David, now 21, lie down at night after spending the day together. "Vinny broke into my heart,” says David when asked about their bond.

© Isadora Kosofsky - Vinny, age 15, holds a pigeon for David during target practice with a BB gun.
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Vinny, age 15, holds a pigeon for David during target practice with a BB gun.

© Isadora Kosofsky - Image from the Vinny and David:life and incarceration of a family photography project
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Vinny lays down with his mother, Eve, at his aunt's house during the first family visit since his release from juvenile detention.

© Isadora Kosofsky - Michael punches Elycia’s cheek.
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Michael punches Elycia’s cheek.

© Isadora Kosofsky - Eve places her head on David’s back, while he draws a picture of a clown in his notebook.
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Eve places her head on David’s back, while he draws a picture of a clown in his notebook.

© Isadora Kosofsky - Image from the Vinny and David:life and incarceration of a family photography project
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Felicia, David's girlfriend, and their 10-month-old daughter, Lily, visit him through video visitation at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

© Isadora Kosofsky - Image from the Vinny and David:life and incarceration of a family photography project
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David, age 19, sits on the floor of the recreation area with his shirt off at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

© Isadora Kosofsky - Image from the Vinny and David:life and incarceration of a family photography project
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David embraces Felicia as she holds his torso between her legs on the bed in the motel room that David rented after his release from county jail.

© Isadora Kosofsky - Vinny and his sister, Elycia, watch the sun set behind Highway-40 or Route 66.
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Vinny and his sister, Elycia, watch the sun set behind Highway-40 or Route 66.

© Isadora Kosofsky - Vinny, age 15, and David tease each other as Vinny showers.
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Vinny, age 15, and David tease each other as Vinny showers.

© Isadora Kosofsky - Image from the Vinny and David:life and incarceration of a family photography project
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Elycia grips her mom’s leg and won’t let go. After Vinny was held at juvenile detention and subsequently sent to live with his aunt in a town three hours away, Elycia cries often, screaming, “ I want my Beano back.” Vinny cared for his siblings, Elycia and Michael, while their mother was working at Wendy's.

© Isadora Kosofsky - Image from the Vinny and David:life and incarceration of a family photography project
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David comforts Vinny, age 16, who is embraced by Krystle outside the apartment they shares with his brother after Vinny finds the object he made for his girlfriend accidently broken in two in his room.

© Isadora Kosofsky - Vinny, age 16, looks at his girlfriend, Krystle, as they recline on a bed in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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Vinny, age 16, looks at his girlfriend, Krystle, as they recline on a bed in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

© Isadora Kosofsky - Image from the Vinny and David:life and incarceration of a family photography project
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Vinny, age 16, tickles his younger brother Michael as Vinny’s girlfriend Krystle rests her head on his back during a temporary visit with his siblings at the motel where they live with their father. Eve, Vinny’s mother, and Elycia, Vinny’s sister, lean against each other as they watch a cartoon program (right). “I feel happy when I’m with my mom, little siblings, and my older brother. I make the best of what I have,” says Vinny.

Vinny and David:life and incarceration of a family by Isadora Kosofsky

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