In this portrait, lawyer Bryan Stevenson gazes softly into the distance. Nationally recognized for his work in criminal justice reform, Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative in 1989 to provide legal services to prisoners who are wrongly convicted, poor, or denied a fair trial. In 2018, he established the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, to tell the history of slavery and racism in the United States. One of the Legacy Museum’s most powerful features is its display of more than 800 jars of soil collected from lynching sites across the country.
In using the jars as a backdrop, photographer Joshua Cogan acknowledges Stevenson’s contribution to American society while also honoring the victims of racial violence symbolized by the jars. These identical containers, arranged in rows, suggest the systemic racial violence and torment endured by African Americans, particularly during the Jim Crow era.