Tuesday, 17 April 2012
Picture of Last Week: Trayvon Martin's Team
It looks like a team of operators circling the parents, the sharp-dressed man in the top left, the reverend and the lawyer; the sharp-dressed man seems a bit too sharply dressed for the occasion and doesn't seem to serve any picture, Sharpton seems to be visibly moved and expressing condolences and sympathy, and the lawyer is saying whatever it is lawyers say on occasions such as these.
Then in the middle there are the parents. From the picture, the father is just devastated, a broken and haunted man, wondering at what kind of a world he lives in where his son can be shot and the perpetrator go unpunished. It is quite different to his disposition in video clips, where he seems to be functioning well, where it seems almost as though his son's death hasn't hit him. In this photograph, he is shattered, there is both despair and disappointment on his face, but also a touch of fatalism, the sense that this happens all the time, somewhere to somebody; that it's a kind of reverse lottery and the chances of winning are just multiplied a hundred times if you are black. Perhaps he is also thinking of the legal system and the media circus surrounding it - he just wants everything to be over, to go back in time, to retrace his son's steps and keep him away from Florida's gated communities. Sharpton is talking to him and perhaps that's why the words are those of some form of condolence or consolation.
The mother, in contrast, is mad. She is filled with contempt and anger. Video clips show she is a religious and forgiving woman and you know she wants to be good, to do the right thing, to tread in the footsteps of Jesus and use Trayvon's death to make the world a better, more understanding place. But here she is a mother first. She knows exactly what is happening and that is why the lawyer is talking to. She's the business end of things, a woman who wants justice but who knows, that whatever happens, it will not come. Her son is dead and there is no justice that can recompense her that loss. But still, she is ready to fight.
and I must confess I am painfully ignorant of the lives of the people featured in the photograph but that's what the picture says to me. There's a short clip of video from which this came, which says something different, as do clips of Trayvon's parents speaking at rallies like the Million Hoodie March but still, it's the picture that will stick with me; a picture of a broken father and an angry mother. And perhaps that is still the power of photography, that it can isolate a moment among the chaotic flow of everyday life and create a narrative that, while it might not always be real or true, is still the right message for the right time.