October 17, 2011

The Pepper Spray Girl

So, watch out! Here comes the media hungrily eyeing the non-hierarchical, ego-less Occupy Wall Street movement with the typical aim to individualize, aestheticize, glamorize, romanticize and dole out some notoriety and fame.

Although the movement is clearly distributed across age groups, this first wave of attention and media chic (check out The Stranger and the hot-off-the-press NYMag) is clear focused on the young and (previously) disaffected.

The best example of this elevation, mascot-ization, hero-ization so far is embodied in this photo of, what should we call her, “the pepper spray girl?” (Her real name is Kaylee Dedrick.) According to the backstory at TIME Lightbox, this woman struck photographer Sasha Bezzubov because of the bird (and “the piercing eyes”) even before he and the reporter realized she was the person “seen on YouTube by more than a million people falling screaming to her knees, after a police commander sprayed pepper in her face.” (Bold mine.)

Certainly, it’s an entrancing portrait from Zuccotti Park with the bird and the flag and, yes, the piercing eyes, and an expression seeming to mix hurt, empathy and conviction with a part-witnessing, part-confrontational gaze. There’s no way to know without talking to Kaylee, of course, but I wonder (given the tripod and “the need for some crowd control” to get the picture) if the look would have been quite so piercing if she wasn’t feeling a little a bit singled out, even in need, a bit, of what she was providing the bird.

(photo: Sasha Bezzubov)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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