Inquirer photographer documents life outside after a wrongly convicted man is released from prison

Every Monday, we present a gallery of recent pictures taken by our staff photojournalists and tell the story behind one of them. This week Inquirer staff photographer Jessica Griffin talks about the months following a man’s release from prison after a judge unexpectedly overturned his conviction.

Terrance Lewis visits his son Zahaire, who lives in Bristol with his mother.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Terrance Lewis visits his son Zahaire, who lives in Bristol with his mother.

When Terrance Lewis was released from prison in May 2019, Jessica Griffin was assigned to document the moment. She and reporter Samantha Melamed spent the day with Lewis, who was just starting to navigate a world where much had changed since his sentencing 21 years prior.

“It was a very emotional day,” Griffin said of the marathon of family visits Lewis would make that day. “Things were happening so fast, going from house to house, that I had to stay focused on the technical aspects of photography in order to make the most compelling and storytelling photographs.”

Griffin would go on to spend several months with Lewis and his family, documenting his adjustment to life outside of prison. Because the family had grown comfortable with Melamed’s previous reporting of Lewis’s story, it helped Griffin establish her own relationship with them.

» READ MORE: Life after “life"

“Being able to work on a story longterm is an incredible gift,” Griffin said. “Every time you meet with the subject and make photographs, the images are different and give more information about the story.”

And the more time Griffin spent with Lewis, the more nuanced his story became, she said.

“I feel like together we created photographs that help people understand what it’s like for an exoneree to transition from prison to their real life,” she said.

“I am thankful to Terrance for allowing us to document his journey.”

» SEE MORE: Last week’s staff photo gallery and the staff photography page