“When you take someones life you forfeit your own”
For me, it is impossible to look at this photograph without coming back to this line. These words, painted across the obsolete brick walls of a run-down building, draw the viewer in and establish themselves as the focal point of the photograph. They speak of tragedy, of violence and of death.
Then, naturally, the eye travels to the painting on the wall in the lower right hand corner. The blood red stands out as the most striking display of color throughout the entire photograph. With the color’s parallel with blood, the portrait further instills evidence of tragedy. Even more, as a result of the muralist’s perspective, the portrayal of the unknown man appears “saint-like,” referencing again the pt of death and introducing the concept of innocence.
In my opinion, these two regions represent the main ideas of the photograph–violence and death. They also demonstrate the interdependent relationship of words with images. Without these words, the viewer would not be able to understand the greater message of the picture. While tragedy is evident–the blood red, saint-like portrait, and baskets of flowers that litter the sidewalk–Sternfeld also explores the emotions that regard those who commit the crimes. He effectively employs the horizontal composition which forces the eye to travel in a circle. The viewer has to closely examine the photograph to notice certain details which they would otherwise overlook upon first glance. For instance, details such as “Guilty…Life in prison” and “Do the right thing” add dimension to the photograph even as minor details.
At the same time, Sternfeld’s point of view adds further meaning to the picture. By taking the photograph in a style which mirrors that of photographers from the FSA (see below). The photograph is meant to be factual and straightforward; yet the emotion is impossible (as it nearly always is) to escape. Demonstrating suffering the the landscape, the building holds the emotion of the original tragedy. The message the photograph sends regards the perpetual nature of tragedy–it will always exist. Capturing the still image makes the scene appear to be trapped in time, locked into the sadness of the incident that occurred. However, at the same time, the photograph portrays a building with some flowers on the ground and some paintings on the walls, but there are no people around. The landscape and the coinciding phrases portray the emotion, not people. So, in the end, the photograph makes a strong statement: yes, there will be tragedy, but remember, life goes on.