Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
December 3, 2014

Todd Heisler's Two Scenes from the Eric Garner Non-Indictment

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Todd Heisler covers both bases for you in the aftermath of the Eric Garner non-indictment. The first is more layered, more atmospheric.  The second is in-your-face. These two photos are part of a 13 picture slideshow attached to the article, “Protests After Grand Jury in Eric Garner Chokehold Case Doesn’t Indict Officer.”

The beauty of the first photo, literally, is how it juxtaposes Radio City as a real life Christmas card (and Old Glory-Old Glory-Old Glory-Old Glory) with the street. It’s the season of joy versus another day of open wounds.

The sign that bisects the marquee says “Ferguson is Everywhere.” It’s bold rhetoric and poetic, but it’s not true. Instead, the backdrop highlights the New York of magic and nostalgia, the city of everyone who breathes easy, as distinct from anyone they might possibly need protection from. The distinction between foreground, middle ground and background, and the geometry is also interesting. The black guy on the left and the black father and daughter on the right, are like pillars at a gate carving a path through the protest straight to the glittery theater. I don’t know what’s happening behind Heisler (Birdman, perhaps?) but it’s eerie how much the three, as pensive and close to us they are, are so isolated and turned way.

For those in no mood for subtlety, Todd delivers as well. That it’s a white guy pulling on the jet black scarf in the symbol of a noose is certainly inclusive. Considering the lighting, including the stop light; the way the man, his arm perfectly extended, presents himself so forthrightly to the camera; even the half a “hands-up” or the line of NYPD, like a dance chorus — it’s so Broadway. In concert with the Garner videos themselves, with full inference to lynching, it’s suffocation on stage.

(photos: Todd Heisler for The New York Times caption 1: People visiting Midtown for the Christmas tree lighting mingled with demonstrators outside Radio City Music Hall. Visitors at the Christmas tree lighting mingled with demonstrators outside Radio City Music Hall. caption 2: Demonstrators marched throughout Midtown Manhattan.)

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