November 22, 2011 | 6
When U.C. Davis police officer Lt. John Pike pepper-sprayed a line of student protesters last Friday, his actions were recorded in replicate. Dozens of cameras captured video and still images, and soon swarms of photographs seeped across the internet. If there was ever a more-recorded single event in history, I am not aware of it.
Yet, from the cloud of pepper-spray photographs, one has come to dominate. It is this image, taken by Davis psychology student Louise Macabitas, from the west side of the blocked path:
This is the photo that birthed the Pepperspray Cop meme. After spending time looking at this and dozens of similar captures, I think I know why.
Leaving politics and sociology aside, the image compels on its own merits. It is at once both complex and simple. There is a lot to look at, but each element adds into the same narrative. As Megan Garber notes:
…the photo’s narrative is built into its imagery. It depicts not just a scene, but a story. It requires of viewers very little background knowledge; even more significantly, it requires of them very few political convictions.
A remarkable image. I hope that eventually Ms. Macabitas receives due recognition for it.
***This image is reproduced here under the Fair Use provision of U.S. copyright law, as this post is editorial commentary on the photograph itself.