The Queen Protester of Baton Rouge: An Art Review

Comments

1
Great post Jen! A couple of other things struck me about the composition of the photo: The horizon line on the police side is higher than on the woman's side. This creates the illusion that the woman is standing taller than the police. Also the tree in the background splits the scene at the action line making it a conflict between the natural (trees, human) and the mechanized (body armor and pavement).
2
YES! I didn't even notice those, Tim.

Um, folks, Tim Keck is the publisher of this here rag. He, as this insightful comment makes evident, is the reason why an art critic is still working full-time in Seattle. And no, I'm not brownnosing. I've been here too long (and I'm too cranky) for that. Seriously. I dig this comment!
3
You couldn't compose a painting better than this, if you ask me. The body language says it all.
4
@3:

This is the beauty of a skillful photographer capturing a moment . In literally another split second that body language would have been completely different and the composition would have changed significantly as a result.
6
I can't believe Graves is allowing comments on a post!
7
I would like to thank Our Dear Jen for opening this up for comments. I hope that commenters will show her respect.

The thing that really strikes me about this photo is this sad reality: When did our law enforcement officials become such big wusses? They've got all their stupid, needless, uncomfortable military drag on, and she's just standing there in her simple outfit. You can tell by looking at her that she's not armed - at least not to any extent that could pierce their ensembles. It's like they don't know what to do with her, because she's not intimidated by their faux fierceness. And that's where their whole facade falls apart. She stood up to a bully, and - like all bullies - they didn't know what to do.

8
jen you raise the profile of this blog so much
9
The police have better things to do that be props for staged publicity shots for the paparatzi.
10
This is a great post and some great comments. What I notice is the awkward stance/posture of the cop on the right. It looks like he's being propelled backwards, or maybe the woman has some sort of power to reverse time, so he's gone into rewind? The only thing I can think of is something from The Matrix (the woman being Neo, another Christ figure). The inexplicableness of the action gives the sense that you are in the presence of (true) power.
11
But because of the angle of the photographer's approach, she is the tallest figure in the picture.
I would forward it is the fact the polizi actually have their legs bent that lowers their height, not the angle of the photo, who looks to be a on eye-level with Iesha Evans, to my unpractised eyes.

Thanks for this.
12
@9: And yet there they were, looking so much like a modern, testosterone-infused version of those bumbling Keystone Kops from the silent film era. If only they'd had the good common sense to have realized how their actions would be viewed and interpreted by a world-wide audience and perhaps refrained from their egregiously overbearing tactics.
13
Great post Jen. Really well done.
14
@12: Exactly the effect the model and choreographers wanted. The police, by following procedure exactly and by the book, appear as Catalina and you describe. So you are all getting your "tee-hee" fixes at the expense of our professional public servants. That's cruel and childish.

We can do better.
15
One of our reporters realized today that he had captured the arrest on video. It provides interesting context to this sharp analysis. While so much of this movement has (rightly) been driven by the power of videos, in this case the frozen moment is far more moving.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_ADDOHr…
16
"These are not the Black lives you are looking for."
17
Phenomenal writing and analysis. Thanks for writing this
18
As a former art history major I can't tell you how much I love this post. On a pop culture note I thought her perfectly level chin and dress flowing out behind her made her look like Superman. A hero facing down mere mortals.
19
Thank you, Jen. This is truly a gift.

@14, "cruel and childish." Oh my god you're dumb.
21
Excellent post Jen.

@14 - You're better than that comment.
22
@19: Well, then try this:

Picture a chubby, white, older, Archie Bunker type in solidarity wearing skimpy shorts and a tank top with BLM printed on it, doing exactly what she did - appearing obviously unarmed. Would it be a story? No. Would it be art? No.

We have enough events going on without staging clickbait for the media, art history majors, critics, and pseudo-critics, to add a superfluous story to suit their narrative about how "mean and stupid" the cops are and have been throughout history. Delightful fodder for this weekend's cocktail party, isn't it!

@20: Not conspiracy, staging.
23
To summarize, my point is that this was a gimmick to make the police look unnecessarily foolish. We don't need that. Obviously, most of you feel differently.
24
And why don't we need this?

Because the problems of race relations cannot be solved asymmetrically by protests and events alone. Peaceful and effective protest is critical but changes must be organic from within each community. Purposely humiliating people, and cops are people too, does not breed good will to bring about the changes we all so desperately need -- in this hot and bloody summer of 2016.
25
@24: It is just a picture, no one will remember it in a month, it really is not a big deal, and it is probably not staged. It is likely just the best one out of 200+ pictures/images that were created out of that moment.

It is a lovely picture though, simply from an aesthetic sense.
27
I agree with Raindrop that this whole line of thought is condescending. It not only serves to make fun of cops who are simply doing their job (and, as far as I can tell, from the before and after context, not overstepping the line of legal cop behavior), but it also dehumanizes the young woman, by imbuing her with all kinds of speculative ideal qualities, just so you all can get a warm fuzzy feeling.

However, I will say that I'm impressed that Tim Keck chimed in. Hey, Tim, I've been reading "The Stranger" since the days of "The Rocket"!

Also, Jen, you might like Geoff Dyer's amazing book-length essay on photography: "The Ongoing Moment."
28
That this woman is poised and beautiful adds to the contrast of the ugly, militarized & anonymous "Man" coming to "get her".
@23) @24) @25) Your attempt to manufacture some form of outrage from a spontaneous photograph of cops busting a non-violent black female vividly portrays the depth and quality of your commenting ability. Lorem ipsum has more meaning. Remember that next time.
29
@26: You can't extrapolate that I'm saying not to criticize the police. I talked about unnecessarily humiliating them. There's a difference.

@28: Did the optics drive the event, or did the event drive the optics?
29
This might be the best Slog post of all time, and this photo deserves it.

@23, This was a peaceful protest but the police showed up for a war. If they look foolish it's not the fault of the photographer. You're smarter than this.
30
@29: No, the police were following procedure - thus laying the the stage blocking. That they look foolish is pure art gravy for your all.
31
@28: Hey now, if you are going to respond to me, I would like to politely request that you actually read my comment. You obviously did not.

@29: Five police officers got killed at a rally/protest just like this one not long ago, I don't know if you can really blame them for taking such precautions. Yeah it looks goofy and unnecessary, but if they and the department feel their lives are on the line, so be it. That is not even to mention the possibility of rocks, bottles, etc. The line between a large protest and a riot can be extremely thin and tenuous, regardless of the cause.
32
@29) "Did the optics drive the event, or did the event drive the optics?" Again, another stupid and meaningless comment that has no mooring to the price of beans in China - just like every single post that has farted out of you.
33
@30, It's not the photographers fault the police look like goons when they are just "following prodecures." (@31, They wore riot gear to protests long before Dallas). They usually say they were following procedures when they’re sitting before a grand jury, and then they get off. That’s kind of the whole reason people are protesting. The procedures need to change, but they won't unless people demand it. If we get a few beautiful images out of it, more the better, but the photographer is only witnessing history. People like you resisting change and feeling butthurt that it’s happening anyway? That's the gravy.
34
@32: Here are examples:

Optics drive event: Donald Trump pays New York actors $50 for showing up at his presidential announcement to create a crowd at Trump Tower, descending the escalator with Melania into the "adoring" crowd.

Event drives optics: Bill Clinton just really wanted to see his friend Loretta Lynch in Phoenix for a chat. You know the result.
35
@14:

What's "cruel and childish" is two grown men, wearing 40 or 50 pounds of body armor and armed to the teeth, viewing a single, passive, and clearly unarmed Black woman as such a heinous threat to their masculine authority that they have to arrest her simply for standing alone in the middle of a deserted street. If they had taken even a few moments to rationally analyze the situation, they should have easily been able to ascertain the presence of numerous cameras, realized their actions would be recorded and transmitted across the planet in a matter of hours, if not minutes, and perhaps refrained from making themselves look like repressive goons and bullies.

"Following procedure exactly by the book" is actually not a very good policy when you KNOW in advance the results are going to reflect poorly against you, especially when it's abundantly clear that even a very small alteration in that procedure could have brought about a quite different and more positive outcome for both sides. Or is it your contention these officers should be considered no more than mindless automatons, incapable of independent thought, or of altering their behavior in light of changing circumstances?

In re: your comment @22. What in the world makes you think, had circumstances been as different as you hypothesize: had it been a middle-aged White male standing in the middle of the street, that there would have even been a confrontation in the first place? We've seen far too many examples of White men given free passes by the authorities in far more tense circumstances (as in they're open-carrying or even clearly brandishing weapons) to believe they would have automatically been treated the same as this lone, unarmed Black woman.

There was no "gimmick to make the police look unnecessarily foolish" at play here; they have shown time and again they're more than capable of doing that all by themselves without any outside help. It's just that more and more frequently there are people around with recording devices when they do it, is all.
36
@33: The point is, perhaps this week of all weeks should clue people in as to why police wear riot gear during riots or during large protests.

Because a large protest always has the potential to become a riot, regardless of who is there. The police do not have any magical prognosticators to know if they will need the riot gear, and has the Boy Scouts taught me "Be Prepared."

Better to look silly than take the risk of having a bottle or rock break your head open. It is rare, I know, but that does not make it impossible. Lightning strikes are rare, but I still put down the golf club and go inside if a thunderstorm starts.

I am firmly against militarization of the police, but that is not what this small debate we are having is about.
37
@36, I understand and appreciate the rationale behind the police suiting up for warfare, because sometimes protests get ugly and you don't know when and where that will be, and if that's what they feel they need to do, so be it. Right now we're talking about how the militarization of the police looks in this particular image (in a rare unanimous verdict: not good), and what it says about the asymmetrical power the police wield any time they interface with the public, which is the underlying concern that is driving these protests in the first place.

My issue is with Raindrop getting upset because he thinks a photograph documenting an actual event is being used as propaganda against police brutality - which, yes, it is, and will likely be for years to come - when this photograph wouldn't be nearly as powerful if the police weren't wearing riot gear and/or the woman were dressed like an anarchist instead of a peaceful protester in the tradition of civil rights activists Americans rightly revere. It's the police acting on standard procedure that makes this image so powerful, so don't hate the messenger. This photo depicts real events, and it says a lot about the state of affairs in this country today.
38
This thread showed so much promise, and then Raindrop successfully diverted it into another boring trollfest.
39
@38) I don't think raindrop has been a troll here at all (nor myself either, I hope, in my agreement). I think this is STILL a great discussion, because no one (that I've noticed in my scanning) has resorted to name calling or other kinds of rudeness. Unless by "great promise" you meant it began with everyone seeming to agree?
40
@36:

In this instance it's not that the police are dressed in riot gear per se, but rather the visual contrapuntal of two heavily armored White police officers confronting a petite, passive, Black woman who clearly poses no imminent threat. Nobody would blame police for wearing as much protection as they can carry, given recent events, but in the context of this image it does not appear they are using their armor so much for personal protection, as instead they are wielding it as a means of intimidation. The image becomes striking because the woman's physical stance indicates she is in fact NOT intimidated in the least: her calm stillness lends her a sense of grace and poise, an almost ethereal quality emphasized by the flowing of her dress; whereas the much larger officers appear decidedly off-balance, their heavy, bulky armor so physically unwieldy they must labor beneath its very weight. The result is they appear lumbering and brutish, in direct contrast to her imperturbable demeanor: a young, Black, female Gandalf confronting a pair of baleful orcs.
41
I agree that the photo makes the police appear foolish.

I disagree that this is "unnecessary". The necessity of making the police appear foolish is the whole reason the photo has captured our attention.

I suppose they were running up to her and coming to an abrupt stop, but, frozen in time, it appears that they're do-si-doing around her.
42
This was a beautiful piece of writing. Thank you.
43
Would it surprise you, Raindrop, to know that the military have used photography to document their actions for as as there's been photography? Sketch artists and painters too. A big part of their use of these mediums is to try to capture iconic images such as this, images to stir emotion and create an image of great heroism. Why should the people who protest against the militarization of the police not do this as well? Why should people who want to hold public servants to account not also be allowed that power?
44
My fave artful press photo of late was the the one where the tsnarnev brother was emerging from the boat. Had a sorta rennasaince era religious iconography vibe.
45
It isn't just the police that are overdressed; Evans is too. The difference is that the excess costuming the police brought to the event expresses fear, while Evans expresses confidence.

The police here are not "simply doing their job".

There's nothing "simple" about sending three men to arrest one woman who isn't resisting. The three men arresting her in such elaborate riot gear are going far beyond what is needed to do their job. And then of course you have to ask what their "job" is. While these three guys, and the hundreds behind them, are "simply doing their job" making arrests at this protest, somebody on the other side of town is running a stop sign. Somebody's car has been parked for 15 minutes too long. As stack of burglary reports gathers dust. There are lots of demands on the police.

The police make choices about which parts of their job they will do, and which will have to wait, or never get done at all. They make choices about how they will do their job, with the minimum of fuss or with an elaborate show of force. Nothing simple about any of it.
46
@45:

I would challenge your assertion that she is "overdressed"; if anything, she appears to be wearing about the bare minimum, short of a swimsuit perhaps, that most people - rightly or wrongly - would consider adequate covering. In fact, I would offer that it is the contrast between her minimal attire in comparison to the officer's veritable suits of armor that lends further poignancy to the image: she is vulnerable and exposed, whereas they are massively protected; yet she appears to be strong and confident, while they appear weak and ineffectual. Thus the image captures and conveys an ironic subversion of the traditional power dynamic, which is one of the qualities that makes it so powerful.
47
Blip, to me at least, you extrapolate and contort what I say - and that's partly my doing as well as I stumble though these things. Nevertheless, it seems to me that you are seduced by the imagery of it all beyond its practicality, logistics, and impact for all concerned - including the police. Perhaps therein lies the difference between our nuances.
48
@38: Really? Because I blemished the thread with feedback that ruffled your delicate sensibilities? This thread is about art, but also it's about the current protests.

Jen is a great art critic. I learn a lot from her posts. I apologize for annoying her (but not to you).
49
@39 and 48: I'm not opposed to disagreement, but the following quote sounds like classic concern trolling to me (and I quote from @14) "So you are all getting your "tee-hee" fixes at the expense of our professional public servants. That's cruel and childish. We can do better."

This followed by 8 of the following 34 posts (24%) being more from Raindrop, and maybe 20 more being all about Raindrop's comments (yes, including mine!) instead of the content of the post. So, yes, I still consider this thread hijacked.
50
@49: Think of the time you wasted doing that math. If being hijacked annoys you, the don't spend more time quantifying it - unless, you actually enjoy doing that.
51
overdressed, adj. Dressed too ostentatiously or elaborately. Also: wearing too many clothes.

So, yeah, this word could mean two different things. Which to pick? Let's go with the "guy wearing a parka in July" meaning, because then we can just totally talk right past each other.
52
@51:

Please explain how this woman's dress can in any way, shape, or form be construed as "too ostentatious ("characterized by vulgar or pretentious display; designed to impress or attract notice") or elaborate ("involving many carefully arranged parts or details; detailed and complicated in design and planning")"?
53
@52, too "uppity" perhaps?
54
Thank you, Jen, for the review and for opening up the comments.