Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
August 27, 2015

The Virginia TV Murder and the Cincinnati Cop Video: The Larger Gesture

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Three weeks ago, because I’m looking for meaning, clues and symbols in imagery always, I found myself on my iPhone navigating, frame-by-frame, through the bodycam video of officer Ray Tensing murdering motorist, Sam Dubose.

There was plenty to focus on: how Tensing reached for the car door; how he grabbed at Dubose; how he fell to the ground, his weapon drawn, later saying that Dubose tried to run him over. And, there we’re ominous frames of Tensing and fellow officers approaching Dubose’s car with the guns drawn … that, after the car came to a stop at the end of the street, Dubose already dead.

Those latter images, by the way, frame a view that is fast become a recognizable scene/signature in this age where personal video and body cam video is becoming married to gun violence. That’s the shot where we get a close up view of one or two arms jutting out, converging into a hand or a pair of hands clutched around the body of a handgun, the target framed just beyond. (If people have been referring to the construction like a video game, yes, of course.)

Below is the Tensing screenshot. And below that is one of the horrible screenshots from yesterday’s surreal televised event of a disgruntled former station employee executing a local Virginia TV reporter and her cameraman during a live interview. The video was diabolically recorded, then immediately distributed by the shooter/social media producer himself.

Tensing body cam

Virginia TV murder screenshot

Sickened by yesterday’s event, it also drew me back to that frame of Tensing hassling Dubose, mindful of how my first look at it stopped me cold. Of course, the scene and the gesture is strictly incidental, just Tensing punctuating his words as he interrogates Dubose over his ownership of the car. But from child’s play and from movies and television and music videos, we all understand what that gesture means. With eyes out for symbolism, that arrangement of the hand and fingers is as representative and fraught as any other in this country today….

It’s the 2nd Amendment gang symbol.

It’s the ultimate object in the current race and state violence crisis.

It’s what’s distinguishing America from the rest of the world.

(screenshot 1: Hamilton County Prosecutor via NYT. screenshot 2: Hamilton County Prosecutor. screenshot 3: johnny bravo via deathandtaxes.)

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