The black-and-white image was shocking to the U.S. and international public alike. There sat a 32-year-old wife and mother, killed for killing. Her blurred figured seemed to evoke her struggle, as one can imagine her last, strained breaths. Never before had the press been able to attain such a startling image—one not made in a faraway war, one not taken of the aftermath of a crime scene, but one capturing the very moment between life and death here at home.
Campbell’s article doesn’t delve any further into the effect of this photograph on death penalty debates. To this day, however, no prisons allow photography during executions. What if things were different? How might the careful documentation of this process — with all our technology for capturing and sharing images — change the debate today? And whose interests are most protected by keeping executions invisible?
A good photo to be aware of. Especially given photography’s history with death and the way that photography really came of age during the Civil War. There’s something about photographing death that is especially compelling, even today. While the news media’s fixation on death images as clickbait is gross, it is worth asking ourselves why we all look and why those are newsworthy.
I don’t think it’s just shock value. Death is one of those things that we don’t like to think about because it’s unknowable and inevitable. It’s one of those things we’re taught from an early age how to compartmentalize and protect ourselves from addressing.
It’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to talk to my son about so far. Precisely because we don’t know. And he wants answers. To everything. And I can’t give him good ones. I think I’m still looking for those myself. Hence my difficulty in turning away from these photos.