Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
July 7, 2016

On the Alton Sterling Daily News Cover. (Graphic, Yes.)

 

The Thursday, July 7th 2016 cover of the New York Daily News using a video still to depict the police slaying of Alton Sterling, a black youth in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

There are a several things about this horrible screenshot of Alton Sterling’s death scene that deserve a hard look. One is the fact the New York Daily News chose to publish it so prominently, singularly and graphically in the first place. In post after post and tweet after tweet in the aftermath of the (next-to-)latest high profile example of state violence against another young black man, what so many people have written is that “there is nothing left to say.”

If you can force yourself to examine it, the image is significant for a number of things. We may encounter this degree of violence in videos or more personal and partisan sites on the internet, but it’s rare to see this extent of horror — the eyes rolled back, the blood stain spreading across the chest, the quality of an assassination — revealed in print or in a static image from a more mainstream news publication. It might feel, with only words at one’s disposal, like there is nothing more to say, but it also feels here — in the unforgiving bluntness, the indictment and its response to the endless loop of the same insanity — like there was more to show.

Also etched here in blood and concrete and captured in what, in cinematic fashion, feels like real-time action, is the message that the black man, in any condition, remains a threat to the men in blue.

Finally, although it’s totally random, still more heinous is that the killing took place in a handicapped zone. What we understand implicity when we encounter these designated spaces, whether outside a medical clinic or in the parking lot of a convenience store, is that we must exercise that much more caution and care. For our purposes, isn’t the state’s prejudice, paranoia and the deadly overreaction to it a disease, a disability? Knowing the symbol commands that we heed all that ails, is there a more cynical place to die than across this sign?

(screenshot via The Advocate via NY Daily News)

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