Eddie Herena is the Prison Journalism Project’s first photographer, and his photo essays have helped us get a feel for life inside and outside the walls. Eddie’s openness to the world openness is one of his biggest strengths.

“When you’re in prison it’s hard to not think about life beyond prison,” he wrote in his first PJP essay. “My mind was never stuck. I was always thinking about my future.”

For PJP, Eddie has documented private experiences like the birth of his first child during COVID-19 and public events such as a Black Lives Matter protest in California’s East Bay.

Eddie, who is a former staff photographer for the prisoner-run San Quentin News, has also given us access to thousands of photos he took while he was at San Quentin State Prison. PJP’s stories are regularly illustrated with photos that offer a rare inside view of life behind the walls.


Q&A with Eddie Herena

As journalists, we always seek answers to the five most important questions we want our readers to know: who, what, when, where, and why. We sometimes throw in a how. We asked Eddie these questions so our readers get to know him better.

Who are you? Tell us a little about your background.

I’m a father. I’m a friend. I’m a brother. And I enjoy photography. I enjoy my freedom. I enjoy the fresh air.

When did you start expressing yourself through photography?

I really got into photography when I was given the job of staff photographer at San Quentin News. Before that, pictures were part of my experience growing up. My mom had a camera and was always taking photos. Same with my grandmother. Photography is my way of sharing. I’ve always considered myself a storyteller and when I found photography, I found my medium.

What kind of stories are you most interested in telling?

I like telling the human story about people in their environments. I also like telling nature stories, documenting the beauty around us. I’ve always tried to capture color because prison is a dull place.

Where do you find the inspiration for your photos and your stories?

I find inspiration just from being alive and having the ability to see. I want to continue to tell stories that I see around me.

Why should people on the outside look at your work?

People are people regardless of location. For some reason, I think people lose sight of that.

How would you like to be remembered and thought of as a person?

I want to be a recognized artist — rich or famous it doesn’t matter. That’s how I want to go down. I just want people to say, “Yeah man, he was all right.”

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