T H I S V I O L E N T L A N D
The rate of police violence in America today is unique in the developed world. No other country even comes close. Last year, law enforcement officers killed 1146 civilians there.
In 2016 I began mapping each place in America that a police officer had killed someone in the previous two years. Utilizing several different databases, I found that although the statistics changed daily, consistently the cities with the most killings were in 6 states in the American West. In fact almost 50 percent of all killings by police occurred in those six states, often in rural and suburban areas. I am photographing at the location of more than 450 places in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma where this lethal police violence has occurred.
Using the maps I create in my London studio I often drive eight to ten hours on highways and back roads to find the exact spot where someone was killed. The road trip is a popular trope in American photography – as is the focus on architecture and landscape. J.B. Jackson the cultural geographer of the American landscape writes, “looking at the built environment is not just an appreciation of form but a way of asking questions about people and place.” From Robert Frank to the photographers that made up the New Topographics, these artists have often given us quiet indications into the political and social state of the nation.
To be an American is to be implicated into a history that is filled with violence. As an American who has lived outside of America most of my adult life, I am returning with my camera, questioning perhaps, not only the romantic photographic interpretation of the American dream, but also the nation’s acceptance of violence against its citizens at a time of deep social and political change.