Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
June 10, 2016

The Happy-Go-Lucky Predator: Looking at Brock Turner’s Mugshot(s)

A photo of Brock Allen Turner supplied by the Santa Clara County Office of the Sheriff and initially alleged to be his booking photo.

So, this is the photo the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department tried to pass off this week as Brock Turner’s booking photo.

As has been well detailed elsewhere, the photo above was released to intrepid reporters this week who were pressing for a mug shot. More specifically, it’s the one provided by the Santa Clara Police Department and taken the day of Turner’s sentencing eight days ago before more clamoring produced the actual one from Stanford. The one taken the night of the rape, last January 18th.

So, where’s the halo?

Of course the look, complementing the pale skin and the piercing blue eyes, is completely clean cut. Stanford Brock’s hair is styled in a Caesar, a popular look in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley right now. (Just check the lower levels at a Warrior game.) And, where’s the stat on how many men get arrested in a sport coat?  The photo exposed, it’s the jacket that seems to have hit people’s tilt button.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before this false mug shot came out and then Stanford (not the SCPD) was shamed into producing the real one, there was no mug shot. For almost a year and five months. So in its place, folks like the Washington Post accompanied articles with this dandy, and not-surprisingly related pic:

Evernote Camera Roll 20160607 180001

Of course, the word-picture that will endure from this story is the line from Brock’s father pleading that his champion not go to jail for just “20 minutes of action.” The quote casts a Fortune 100-sized shadow over the other sixteen sentences of the statement. Relative to these mug shots, though, the second sentence deserves more attention. It’s where Turner’s father, attesting that Brock has already suffered enough, writes:

(Brock) will never be his happy go lucky self with that easy going personality and welcoming smile.

So, welcome to privileged America, where profound punishment is equated to the loss of this: ?

Of course, no mugshot trumps any mug shot, especially if you’re African-American, say. That point is detailed in thoughtful detail by Stassa Edwards at Jezebel. Can we really say, though, that the false mug shot would have actually served to to blunt criticism and bolster Turner’s character? Could we take it for granted that the photo would have painted Turner, the solid student and championship athlete, as an otherwise stand up guy?

We’ll never know as the real mug shot surfaced so soon after. I have my doubts though, especially in the current cultural atmosphere. In a dialogue with the facts (and that handslap of a sentence), the proposed mugshot is so classist, it functions like a 1% poster, a “we’ve got friends in high places” poster. But there’s more to the picture than just a jacket and a haircut. I’m not sure about the reddish eyes (we could take votes for fitful sleep or crocodile tears) but I am intrigued by the intensity of the eyes as well as the thoroughly averted glance. I would argue we’re looking at a glare. And the offscreen gaze (especially compared to the real booking photo, which I’ll discuss in a minute) reads like a rejection of his circumstances, an act of defiance, the tight mouth contributing to an air of contempt.

A photo of Brock Allen Turner supplied by the Santa Clara County Office of the Sheriff and initially alleged to be his booking photo.

That said, let’s turn to the photo the SCPD tried to bury — the one taken after the sexual assault late on the night of January 18th.

In this case, the hair (like the boy the father cannot see) is wilder. With that hoodie, he’s now that icon of popular culture and campus culture, the star athlete. If there is a nominal parallel to the slightly reddish eyes in the false mug shot, here what we see is the effect of alcohol, twice the legal driving limit. And back to the eyes, again, it’s always an imprecise exercise reading a face, but the gaze is piercing. It’s like Turner, blind to his actions, tries to see through us. Finally, there’s something just a little cheeky about that slightly pursed mouth.

All in all, in distinct contrast to the false version, it’s the lingering display of Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky.

(h/t: John Mason. photo 1: Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department. photo 2 & 3: Stanford University.)

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