Bruce Jackson does a number of things. for the purpose of this post let's say he's a folklorist and a photographer. I studied with him at SUNY Buffalo. This is an excerpt for an interview he gave to the Wall Street Journal a few years ago. It's about how he became an expert on prison lore.
The Wall Street Journal: How did you first begin to write about prisons?In 1960, I went to graduate school in Indiana and was part of the folk scene there. They had a folklore program. They all knew the songs I knew and they could play and sing better. I decided I would go and find some songs they didn’t know. So I started going to prisons. I went to Indiana State prison. I went to Missouri State Prison. I started recording those songs and realized I was full of s*** as a musician. Here I am this Jewish kid from Brooklyn singing black convict work songs. It was fine in New York, but when I got to Texas and I’m standing in an Oak grove with a bunch of convicts, I felt like a very silly person. So I never performed again. But I recorded those songs and Harvard published a book of them called “Wake Up Dead Man.”