Get Featured: Michael Duke


by Bellamy /

3 min read
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Get Featured: Michael Duke
Michael shares with us a strong project, covering the streets of Houston and the sections of society that have been forgotten by the decades long rivatilization project. Not quite what I was expecting when I think of Houston.

Harris County Sheriff’s Inmate Processing Center is located on the banks of Buffalo Bayou in historic Downtown Houston. Sharing the block with one of nearly half-a-dozen jails in the immediate vicinity, the red-brick building originally was home to a meatpacking warehouse. Today, it warehouses people.

Upon arrival, it takes authorities a few minutes to process someone into the system. The process for release, however, takes eight to 12 hours – and, in some cases, up to 10 days.

When “offenders” are set for release, they enter a stage in the process known as “all the way.” It can be a period of exhilaration, contemplation and anxiety, all knotted together.

Houston’s then-mayor Lee Brown envisioned “a magnificent urban corridor that touches citizens from all walks of life, who make up Houston’s diverse urban family.”

Release can happen at any time of day or night. Small groups of men are let go in stages, followed by small groups of women. When the latter reenter the free world, they’re often met outside by vagrants and predators.

People coming out of confinement complain about the freezing temperatures inside. They also say food in the jail – expired bologna sandwiches are notorious – serves up its own form of punishment.

Traversing Houston’s new Main Street Corridor, however, one encounters a complex reality.

Family members and friends waiting outside the jail say they feel as if they are being punished, as well. It’s not uncommon to wait hours, even days, for a loved one to be released, putting one’s own employment and dependents at risk. As such, children often accompany a parent or grandparent during the wait because there is no alternative. This exposes children at an early age to the criminal justice system.

At certain times of day, men in bright orange-and-white-striped uniforms perform supervised work in and around the jails. These “trustees” pick up litter and cigarette butts, landscape grounds and even wash county vehicles.

Social safety nets are porous, if they exist at all, for people who have spent time in the system. Those coming out of jail with no support face enormous challenges. With blocked access to housing and employment, the system sees a high percentage of repeat offenders.

“What do you expect a guy to do when he’s dumped out on the street with nowhere to go?” a man in his early 20s said up his release. “I’ve got to rob or kill someone to get my next meal.”

“ALL THE WAY” is a photojournalism project I began in 2015, aimed at documenting people’s experiences outside the Harris County Sheriff’s Inmate Processing Center. The images focus attention on the human element, rather than the criminal element, among individuals and families caught up in the local criminal justice system.

Criminal justice is among the top three public expenditures in the State of Texas, the other two being healthcare and education. And yet, criminal justice tends to not receive the same level of public attention or scrutiny as do healthcare and education. In general, people caught up in the system receive little sympathy for their circumstances. “You do the crime, you do the time” is the prevailing attitude.

As a body of work, “ALL THE WAY” reveals an facet of urban life that often is ignored. Images in the series give voice to those who find themselves in the least position to speak for themselves.

Images from the series are posted on my tumblr blog at

Michael Duke, Houston, Texas, USA


Thanks for sharing your work with us, Michael. Very interesting work. I still find it startling to see this kind of social deprivation from the richest country in the world. You have created a rapport with your subjects that is obvious. Bravo.

Come on, share with us what you have and get yourself featured.

Click on this link and send in your project/work: Get Featured. *I am looking for mainly projects, not individual images*
Oh, and click here to see a few of the photographers that have been on the site before

Please make sure you come and comment, polite and constructive critique is welcome.

9 comments on “Get Featured: Michael Duke”

    Daniel May 22, 2016 at 12:19 pm / Reply

    Michael talks a good talk, but I don’t see it reflected in his photography, which is amateur at best. Lacks depth.

    Dominik May 22, 2016 at 3:46 pm / Reply

    I like it a lot. Keep it going, I’ve gave you a follow on Tumblr!

    Lewy May 23, 2016 at 3:05 am / Reply

    That was a bit harsh

    Are we not all singing from the film sheet?


    David Lupton May 23, 2016 at 4:58 am / Reply

    HI Michael,

    I just want to say thank you for putting your work up here it takes courage to walk the streets talking to strangers and taking images respecting people and trying to put your lens on that thing that your unpacking.

    I have been looking at your Tumbler, hidden among the many images are a number of real gems, April 14 2016 Houston quietly haunting, April 16 2016 Houston…way cool, Main Street, Houston, March 4, 2016, nice timing and seeing, Main Street, Houston, Feb. 27, 2016, the way you used the light not on the person really nice, Travis Street, Houston, Feb. 17, 2016…., etc.

    I think the hard part about the project is often we are working out our ideas and chasing them as we work and they morph and change in subtle ways, we get trapped in ways of seeing and composing and rushing a little, like Main Street, Houston, Feb. 20, 2016, a great shot, just that pole growing out the back of his head is a little distracting a slight half step and sorted., its the difference between looking at your viewfinder and through…gets me every time to!

    In a way when I looked at your work it seemed like you were thinking out loud still pondering not yet refining and thats part of the journey. My thoughts when you look for the detail the juxtaposition get close magic happens, the centred portrait I think needs something to overwhelm the subject the newness of change floating above, some powerful other to tell that story. When you chase the light something beyond that flat post modern imagery look pops and fizzes life happens in the light happening, chase it use it to build tension emotion life. Editing is difficult choosing the good the better the great dropping a faulty favourite, this is the key as is the text that goes with each image at the least(for me) these people need a name the one thing I really missed.

    I like what your doing it takes courage, I think just the act of taking these images creates a memory that in time will become more important than the sum of its parts well done and keep shooting keep refining.


    Jorgen May 23, 2016 at 5:16 am / Reply

    Harsh can be healthy to an important project.

    iGlad May 23, 2016 at 7:22 am / Reply

    I have to agree with Daniel, certainly lacks depth and there’s not one story to any of the people in the photos. Looking at his blog after getting fed up with the dispossessed of Houston he’s moving onto the ginger haired jews of Houston.

    Every picture has a story so you should tell it, if it’s not the subjects words then it should be your own. However I doubt if he even spoke to many of the people.

    There’s a hell of a lot to thinking about when photographing people as part of a project and it’s clear you haven’t given it much thought at all.

    lewy May 23, 2016 at 2:47 pm / Reply

    Oh I see now!
    I had not looked properly.

    It is all a bit random, with no real flow.
    Just like being out snapping away on a saturday afternoon.


    joe May 24, 2016 at 6:39 am / Reply

    what a bunch of snobby comments… at least he had the guts to put them out there. well done mate.

    Thomas Roessler May 24, 2016 at 4:22 pm / Reply

    Photos always have a variety of possible interpretations. The less we know about a subject, the larger the risk of a completely wrong interpretation. In serial works each single shot can help us to interpret the other ones. Texts are helpful too and the layout of a photo reportage plays a role which should not be underestimated. I hope that this very important project will be continued and will lead to a book at the end. That needs time. My humble advice is to produce a dummy of the book, discuss it with people who are not familiar with the subject, continue the photographing and editing as long as the author is sure it will work and then publish it. Please keep us informed, kindest regards from Germany .

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