April 3, 2012

Trayvon Through Another Black Man-Child: Three Views From Photographer Mario Tama

Likely close in age to the eleven-year-old Tayvon Martin in the widely adopted photo of the dead seventeen-year-old, these photos of Seminole County resident Jayden Jackson by Getty photographer Mario Tama draw out different dimensions of the tragedy.  The photos were taken on Sunday at a rally outside the Sanford Police Department.

Equally powerful, each photos has a different inflection. From the standpoint of solidarity, and the awareness that “if it happened to him, it could happen to me,” the first photo draws us to consider Jayden and Trayvon interchangeably — as if one could as well have been the other, what happened to Trayvon capable of happening to any black male.

At the same time, perhaps the most sobering message from the killing (and that’s where the ubiquitous article of clothing comes in) is that black boys and black men are so easily lumped together by whites, automatically perceived as scary and dangerous in those hoodies. If it feels like something of a trap to consider Jayden and Trayvon as anything other than unique, the close-up of Jayden in the middle photo, in the complexity and power of his gaze, communicates a profoundly individual sense of pain and sadness.

Reflecting still another dimension, the third photo is more political than personal. In profile, Jayden refers to Trayvon as more of a symbol and a martyr. What we’re presented with here is more the process of a young man suddenly coming face-to-face with the long and enduring civil rights movement.

PHOTOGRAPHS by Mario Tama/Getty Images

(caption: Jayden Jackson prepares to march with Trayvon Martin supporters at Crooms Academy, founded in 1926 as Seminole County’s first school for African American students, before a rally in front of the Sanford Police Department on March 31, 2012 in Sanford, Florida. Martin was killed by George Michael Zimmerman while on neighborhood watch patrol in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes. Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton and NAACP President Benjamin Jealous were amongst the supporters demanding Zimmerman’s arrest.)

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