On Assignment | Lori Waselchuk at Angola | 225 Magazine

Four and a half years ago, I signed up for a photojournalism class at Louisiana State University as a mass comm elective. The class was taught by a talented and friendly local photojournalist named Lori Waselchuk. And in my time in the class, I learned a lot and also got to know Lori.

Fast forward four and a half years: Imagine my surprise when I received a note from my boss asking if I was free one Friday in July to travel with a writer, another photographer and Lori to Angola for her to give her book to prisoners there. I jumped at the chance and was happy to document her spending some time with the men she got to know when she was working on her photo story about the Hospice program at Angola.

Notes to photojournalist Lori Waselchuk line one of her books during her visit to the Louisiana State Penitentiary to hand out her photo book, "Grace Before Dying", that documents the Hospice volunteers at Angola to the men who volunteer with the program on Friday, July 29, 2011. Waselchuk had the men who she photographed and got to know through her photo story sign books for her and two other people who made the project possible. Waselchuk

Notes to photojournalist Lori Waselchuk line one of her books during her visit to the Louisiana State Penitentiary to hand out her photo book, "Grace Before Dying", that documents the Hospice volunteers at Angola to the men who volunteer with the program on Friday, July 29, 2011. Waselchuk had the men who she photographed and got to know through her photo story sign books for her and two other people who made the project possible. Waselchuk's work that features the Hospice volunteers is part of a traveling exhibit that is currently traveling around the country. (Photo by Erin Parker / 225 Magazine)

I wasn’t sure what to expect when we arrived at Angola, but I was put at ease when we walked into the chapel and Lori began walking around the room, chatting and giving hugs to men she hadn’t seen in person for a few years. And then one man said, “Come on in, girls. You’re in the safest place in the state of Louisiana.”

After that, I was in my element, walking around and snapping images, as well as talking with the inmates. I was impressed that Lori brought books for all the men who volunteered with Hospice, as well as for the families of men who were in the Hospice program and were documented in the book. She also had a few copies of the book that she wanted the men to sign – for people who made the story happen and for her.

Photojournalist Lori Waselchuk watches as prisoner and Hospice volunteer Anthony Middlebrooks signs her copy of "Grace Before Dying", that documents the Hospice volunteers at Angola during Waselchuk

Photojournalist Lori Waselchuk watches as prisoner and Hospice volunteer Anthony Middlebrooks signs her copy of "Grace Before Dying", that documents the Hospice volunteers at Angola during Waselchuk's visit on Friday, July 29, 2011. Waselchuk's work that features the Hospice volunteers is part of a traveling exhibit that is currently traveling around the country. (Photo by Erin Parker / 225 Magazine)

We ended up spending a few hours at Angola before heading back to Baton Rouge, and I am thankful I had the opportunity to document this story. I wasn’t sure what to expect when we were driving to the assignment, but most of the time, that makes the experience and the photographs even better. It certainly did for this one!

To read Jeff’s story on the visit, click here.

To learn more about Grace Before Dying and where the exhibit will be next, click here.

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