Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
November 29, 2014

Black Friday: Ferguson Goes to the Mall

The audacity of taupe?

Three things distinguish these photos taken near Ferguson on Black Friday, the quasi-official shopping holiday promulgated by retail America. There is the glaring tension between foreground and background, the intersection of racial politics and economics and the tactical shifting of the protests from the street (and the expressway) to the commercial space.

After the post 9/11 admonition to “go shopping,” how striking to see the National Guard called in to defend big retail. Even more provocative is the way the color blending merges the military and the retail industrial complex. Of course, the greater irony has to do with how much investment in the war and civil defense has not only come at the expense of social welfare but, through the distribution of military hardware, increased the lethality of the local police force.

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This is one of the most complex and challenging images to emerge from Ferguson and the protests there. In the photo, Juanita Morrs stands in front of her boutique which was burned to the ground in the eruption that followed last week’s grand jury announcement. Because photos circulate in the news sphere now with minimal context, we are challenged to make sense of Ms. Morr’s expression. (The caption gives no hint.)

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Finally, this photo is part of the Getty package showing civil rights protesters taking their message to the mall on Black Friday. If different scenes from the package evoke different reactions, I’m curious about the visual effect of this white, and not unfashionable protester outside the Brooks Brothers store. What strikes me most is how much big retail and Madison Avenue have successfully inoculated themselves against such antagonism. If the photo is supposed to highlight the gap between black and white America and their respective playgrounds, the image just as much brings to mind edgy corporate ads that “got there first,” incorporating elements of the street, including protest imagery, as social style.

(photo 1 & 2: Scott Olson/Getty Images caption 1: National Guard troops stand guard outside a Target store on Black Friday November 28, 2014 near Ferguson, Missouri. The Ferguson area has been struggling to return to normal since the August 9 shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man, who was killed by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer. Monday, when the grand jury announced that Wilson would not face charges in the shooting, rioting and looting broke out throughout the area leaving several businesses burned to the ground. caption 2: Juanita Morrs surveys the remains of her business, Juanita’s Fashion R Boutique, after it was destroyed by rioters on November 28, 2014 in Dellwood, Missouri. Many businesses were damaged in Dellwood, which borders Ferguson, on Monday evening after rioting broke out when the decision from the grand jury in the Michael Brown case was announced. The Ferguson area has been struggling to return to normal since the August 9 shooting of Brown, an 18-year-old black man, who was killed by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer. Monday, when the grand jury announced that Wilson would not face charges in the shooting, rioting and looting broke out throughout the area leaving several businesses burned to the ground. photo 3: Joshua Lott/Getty Images caption: Demonstrators protesting the shooting death of Michael Brown walk past a Brook Brothers Woman store at Saint Louis Galleria mall chanting during Black Friday November 28, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. The mall was later closed. Some local businesses still remain closed to consumers in Ferguson, Missouri as tension continue to still run high in the community after Michael Brown, a 18-year-old black male teenager was fatally wounded by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson Police officer on August 9, 2014. A St. Louis County 12-member grand jury who reviewed evidence related to the shooting decided Monday not to indict Wilson with charges sparking riots through out Ferguson.)

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