Michael David Murphy

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Can I interrogate this photograph? Can I hold it here in front of me, arrested?

(Jonathan Bachman / Reuters)

(Jonathan Bachman / Reuters)

This photograph by photojournalist Jonathan Bachman from Baton Rouge is a few days old. It’s a difficult photo of a moment in American history that you won’t soon forget.

You might never forget. I won’t.

There have been plenty of words spilled about the photograph, and you should read them. There are facts and stories and descriptions, and they’re all fascinating, useful, troubling, inspiring and valid.

Instead of repeating them here, I thought I might try and describe why and how I love this photo, by first detecting and then annotating its greatness, using the unfortunate choice of Skitch and its default font & pinkness to tell the story.

This will be as serious as it will be glib, which is never a good idea, but it’s where I’m at this evening, perhaps permanently.

Where to start?

Maybe all that’s unfair. Untimely. When was the last time you had a dialogue with a JPG? Am I talking about a picture, or a picture of people, or am I talking about people? Does it matter? Should it matter?

Can I interrogate this photograph? Can I hold it here in front of me, arrested?

What kind of Saturday was he looking for? Does it hurt too much to ask a question like that right now? How does a photograph enter the imagination and come out the other side, as something else entirely? Am I spending too much time talking about the police? Do I think they’re foolish, or do I think this photograph makes them look foolish? Do you?

And then, just below that, the part of the photo that started me thinking there was more here than just an amazing photograph of a woman (Ieshia Evans) getting arrested.

And off-center, there’s even more reinforcing action and information that keeps pushing us around the frame, telling us to mind our own business.

MDM 20160712

Update: 20160712–6:12PMEST, included more links up-top to the global discussion about the photograph, and this GIF photographed by Max Becherer (which I saw on Twitter — a GIF that Twitter converted to a video, and I converted back to a GIF to post it here without a play button) which shows the arrest sequence.


Update #2: 20160720 — An interview on Vice with Ieshia Evans.

Update #3: 20170213 — Bachman’s photo wins a World Press Photo Award.

(This piece was written by Michael David Murphy for Photos We Love, a new publication from Atlanta Celebrates Photography, which welcomes and encourages you to explore how, why, and what we love about photographs, one picture at a time.)