Your web browser is out of date. Update your browser for more security, speed and the best experience on this site.
Find out more
Devlin Electric Chair, Holman Unit M7032

Why Lucinda Devlin documented the machinery of death

The American photographer explains the inspiration behind her series The Omega Suites

‘Electric chair, Holman Unit, Atmore, AL, 1991’ from the series The Omega Suites


From fantasy hotels to autopsy rooms, American photographer Lucinda Devlin explores varying degrees of human control and passivity. 

Between 1991 and 1998 she photographed inside more than 20 correctional facilities in the US that enforce the death penalty.  

With characteristic directness, she takes us behind doors and offers a rarely seen aspect of the institution. Devoid of people, her images are deceptively simple, coaxing the viewer to seek beyond the surface. 

To mark Devlin’s upcoming retrospective Frames of Reference, she chooses one of her most memorable photographs from a career spanning nearly five decades. 

TX Holding #3

‘Final holding cell, Texas State Prison, Huntsville, TX, 1992’ from the series The Omega Suites

“The photograph would have to be the yellow electric chair from The Omega Suites. That picture for me, and for the series, has been absolutely iconic,” she says. “It’s so bizarre partly because of that yellow colour. Here in America, school buses are painted that bright yellow. We call it ‘school bus yellow’. Many of the state institutions use the materials that they already have, so they painted the chair yellow because the paint was readily available. 

SC #16 Pg. 2

'Witness room, Broad River Correctional Facility, Colombia, SC, 1991' from the series The Omega Suites

“The other aspect of it is that the electric chair was called the Yellow Mama – that’s what it’s called within the prison, and it’s known that way outside the prison. I just found it to be horrific to use the word ‘mother’ to describe the machinery of death.  

“This was quite striking, so that picture has strongly stayed in my mind for many years now. And while The Omega Suites is now over two decades old, it’s still the work that has the most impact.” 


Frames of Reference by Lucinda Devlin is published by Steidl in October 2023. The photographer is interviewed about her life and work in the September/October 2023 issue of the RPS Journal

The RPS Journal is available exclusively to members. Join us to receive our award-winning magazine and read more inspiring features. Explore full member benefits here