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Inspiration

“No Seconds” Photos Of The Last Meals Of Death Row Inmates

By Kishore Sawh on March 2nd 2014

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I spent some time a while ago with a man who was one hundred percent certain, with the surefire certainty as night follows day, that the world was only four thousand years old and that man was on earth before the dinosaurs, and fought them off. When I asked him how he arrived at that idea, he simply replied, “I just know. The Bible says so.” Then there are expectant mothers who smoke in their last trimester, and others who think every Muslim is a terrorist. Everyone has opinions and beliefs of their own and what do they all have in common? They all can be chosen for jury duty, and determine the outcome of what could be a massive fraud case, or more insidiously, whether a person should be convicted of a crime and put to death.

This is what comes to mind when viewing the photos you see here. “No Seconds” is a thoughtful, and provocative series by well acclaimed photographer Henry Hargreaves, who recreates last meals of various people on death row, just before execution. This is not your average stab at food photography. Many of the meals featured are recreations of meals requested by infamous serial killers like Ted Bundy, and Timothy McVeigh. The focus is less of beautifying the subject, as it is laying it bare. It’s shot from a perspective of the diner, and gives a sensory view into the souls of men who knew the time and place they would die, that day.

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In an interview with Vice, Henry says it was his coming upon the campaign to abolish the last meal in Texas that prompted him to look into it, and that has always had an interest in the food choices of others. He mentions that he could identify with the condemned, even briefly, through their choices; That the meals offered a look into the psyche of these men.

The thing that kind of struck me with these last meals was how many of them were these big, deep fried meals, which we like to call comfort food. Here were these people in their last moments and all they really want was a little bit of comfort.

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Hargreaves has a formed statement and view on the capital punishment. The New Zealand native says that it’s strange that it this thing that is seen by much of the world as a barbaric act exists in a country that dedicates so much time and effort promoting their democracy and morals to the world.

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Whatever his own stance, it humanizes the experience for a broad population, and displays it together with some info for you to feel, however it is that you feel. Most of the meals were prepared by a chef friend of his though some simpler ones he arranged himself. When asked if he ate the meals, he said he doesn’t like food to waste and tried a little, but couldn’t. He felt it too macabre and likened to eating the lunch of someone who has just died.

[REWIND: WPP Photo Of The Year Scandal: The ‘Jury’ May Be Worse Than The ‘Criminal’]

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Thoughts

I was very moved by this series. I have my own feelings towards the death penalty which are somewhat inline with Henry’s, and I’ve never really felt from this perspective before. I spent some time in Dartmoor Prison in south of England. Dartmoor is storied and infamous for being residence for some of Britain’s worst criminals. Written about by many and the likes of Dickens, it’s seen it’s fair share of executions. I spent time chatting with some inmates, in close quarters, and somehow seeing these images make me feel more in their shoes than any conversation I had with them.

It’s an interesting thing, to see what was chosen, by whom, what crime they were sentenced for, and the little quirks of some, such as the single olive, and Lord Of The Rings DVD. What was going through their heads? Did they even taste the food? Did they choose things they knew and loved, or was it a statement, or something more sinister? It’s well known that satisfaction is the death of desire, and I imagine this may have played a part in their mind. That this last piece of satisfaction could be enough. It also made me wonder about the whole conflict of it all. Here is a system in place to effectively murder these people, and yet they grant a last meal. Why? It all really IS macabre. It’s brilliant.

You can find the full interview here, and more from Henry Hargreaves at his site. His work is all round impressive and certainly inspirational.

CREDITS: All photographs shared by Henry Hargreaves are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.

About

A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Jaye

    It looks like the Dr Pepper is Smiling back, Creepy.

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    • Scott Pacaldo

      I noticed that too! creepy indeed! Also, anyone thinks if the number of drumsticks, or shrimps, etc has a certain meaning?

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  2. Liz

    Kishore is not mocking or criticizing anybody in this article. He was simply stating the point that EVERYONE has their OWN opinions and beliefs! As clearly stated in the first paragraph. Not everything that utters a word of religion is an attack against it. Open your mind and read the paragraph again for what it actually says. Jeeze people, come on… stop taking everything so personally!

    Kishore, keep up the great work. You are an incredible writer, and an asset to this site.

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    • Mike

      “Not everything that utters a word of religion is an attack against it.”
      Well, from what I have seen all the so called “Christians” in US, most of them value freedom of expression only if it supports their views. On the other hand, religious discussion does not seem to contribute anything of value to the subject at hand.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Hi Liz, thank you for joining our conversation, and for the kind words.

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  3. Elliott Parfitt

    Very interesting piece of work, but to start off the article criticizing people who Believe the Bible making them look ignorant for their faith and putting them on par with expectant mothers smoking…It may have been a well-written article otherwise, but it lost my respect with the first paragraph.

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    • Robin

      A death penalty debate on SLR Lounge? Very poor judgement in my estimation. While the theme of the photography was interesting the tone of the article was downright offensive to me as a Christian. What in the world does creationism have to do with jury selection? It is upsetting to read an article in which the beliefs of others are so blatantly mocked! SLR Lounge would do well to remember that a wide range of people support this site…. Yes “ignorant” Christians are among them < sarcasm intended.

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    • Mike

      Pye, did you approve that first paragraph before it went “to print” ?

      This a situation where writing an article that can be potentially controversial bites a website in the butt since a staff writer like Kishore does not know how to remain objective when covering a story.

      In the fast-paced industry of content-driven websites, you have to keep the balance between quantity versus quality & integrity tilted to the correct side.

      kickstarter campaign to send Kishore to journalism school and a mulligan to SLR Lounge

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Elliot and Robin, hi there. Thanks for taking the time to join the discussion. If you don’t mind I’d like to address both of your remarks together, and certainly start off by saying that it’s not my intention to offend either of you or anyone, nor to mock your religion. I do understand that when it comes to incendiary topics such as this, everyone has a different threshold, and it seems I have missed the mark with you.

      To clarify, what I wrote was to illustrate that belief in the unproven for a juror, can have unforgiving results. In religion, there is a point of belief. Belief in what is unseen, and somewhat unknown. As I understand it, that’s the faith. It’s enduring and powerful, and harmonious, and that’s wonderful. In a jury, the idea we hope for is one of impartiality, and to have faith in only the undisputed facts, with no prejudices, or desires. Essentially that the approach to one , for some, may be carried into the other with measurable consequences. If this was ambiguous in my language, for that I apologize.

      I hope you can see that SLR Lounge, at its core, strives to create a positive human connection and relationship with its viewership. In that vein, I’d like to now, as always, extend an invitation to contact me with any concerns, or questions, or things you would like to see – anything at all to either remedy or make even more personal and pleasurable your experience with us. -Cheers

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Mike, hi there. Thank you for your informative, and passionate words. It appears you are quite the modern polymath, with a healthy surplus of advice you generously share with those around you. I am grateful for the critique, however insulting it may be.

      You are clearly a thinker, and your words and opinions are certainly thought provoking, though I think I’m the one whom you’d be best to address with them here. I am always open to hearing about how we can help, and make a better experience for readers like yourself, and how best to provide that experience and extend its reach. Objectivity in this post, could be somewhat ambiguous, but after all, we are talking about art. Perhaps, however, you’re right, I should’ve been more sensitive with it.

      I think you could be someone good to get a clean, subversive opinion from, and hopefully I can learn what you would like to see more of from us here. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, SLR Lounge is truly grateful for our readership, and we strive to make and nurture positive human interactions. If you would like to talk further about this, or have any other concerns, I’d be happy to hear from you. I’ll take the mulligan, but as for kickstarter, no need, I like to pay my own way. ;-) Cheers Mike

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  4. Stan S

    I agree with another commentor. SLR Lounge is not the place for a death penalty debate, as who among us would feel anything less than contempt that Timothy McVeigh, Adam Lanza, or Dzhokhar Tsarnaev [the Boston Bomber] was still alive while my children died and others were mutilated for life at their hands. In society there are guidelines and rules that are specifically spelled out in laws which inform people of the consequences of their actions. The same rules are in effect in nature; You jump off of a roof of a 30 story building, you will die. You swim with hungry sharks you stand a very good chance the will make you their meal.
    As far as the photography aspect, technically adequate, but nothing outstanding. I dare say bland. Perhaps the rules of nature exist here too as the food was probably not from a 5 star restaurant, and though might be literally a lobster tail, it might be a disappointing tasteful meal [do you get to send it back if the tail was cold?]. Can we make this about true photographic images?

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Hi Stan, thanks for joining the discussion. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention I agree with you that, mechanically, the photos don’t appear to be too demanding. In fact, it was the title and knowing it was the work of Henry Hargreaves which captured my additional attention. I actually love when simple images are evocative and tell a story. I like to be visually enamored, but I also like a photo to make me think less about the gear required, and more about the story that was steward to them.

      This is something Hargreaves does so well. I think sometimes as photographers we get so excited with high technical execution, that we miss that enduring imagery is usually equally about meaning, as it is about visual interest. This is precisely the intersection I find myself at with this series, and why I feel it’s so good; the simplicity is evocative, and that’s no easy feat.
      Cheers

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  5. Jim Kopriva

    Fascinating series. The contrast of the grisly nature of their crimes to the sensory appeal of their crimes that it inspires a sort of guilt for seeing the food as appetizing. This isn’t the venue for arguing for or against the death penalty or the ‘last meal’ concept, but the series inspires critique of those institutions very effectively.

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    • Jim Kopriva

      *sensory appeal of the food*

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    • Kishore Sawh

      JIm, hi there! Thanks for joining the discussion here at SLRL with your comment. I think anyone would be hard pressed to disagree with you, that this series is fascinating. I much admire the creativity involved. I think you eloquently encapsulated my thoughts very well, that the series inspires critique of the institutions of the death penalty and ‘last meal.’ It’s never a subject without strong emotions behind it, and it’s amazing how a simple picture of a meal was able to evoke those emotions. Thanks again, and keep up the wonderful work you’re doing with your media site. I loved the link to storytelling and how you describe the importance of that link in the following:
      “I believe in the power of storytelling, and that belief fuels my work. Storytelling is ancient and universal. Storytelling inspires us to aspire and achieve. Storytelling
      expands our world.” Cheers

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