In 2009, I began a written correspondence with several men scattered throughout the country serving death row sentences for what became an extensive project that looked into capital punishment and solitary confinement in the U.S.
While letters were exchanged between many of them for years, it was only within the first three months that the first man I wrote with was executed. He was in the state of Texas. I went online to search for more information the day of his execution and landed myself on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) website and the executions archive.
It was with that information that I created Parting Words, a visual archive created out of mug shots and testimony readily available through public record of the 556 inmates executed in Texas since 1976, the year the ban on capital punishment was overturned. Using an algorithm, I convert each mug shot into looping excerpts from last utterances ranging from confessions to hymns, sorrows to fears. Parting Words is a work in progress, growing in size with the growing numbers of those executed in Texas, a state responsible for over 37% of all executions in the United States, which is more than the totals of Virginia, Oklahoma, Florida, Missouri, Georgia and Alabama combined.*