Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
May 12, 2005

How Things Look Now


I’m sitting in white L.A., reading about one of those crazy dramas that happen in black L.A. where the cops can’t take a joke from a neighborhood joker who is a little high, riding around the neighborhood in his big Chevy Tahoe, playing amplified music for the neighbors who are out on their lawns enjoying Mother’s Day afternoon (the neighbors expecting this guy will eventually run out of gas), and some deputies want to talk to him, and he likes the attention, and they decide they want him to stop, and then there are more deputies, and they start doing that slow chase thing, and then there are still more deputies, and the neighbors start to feel things are getting out of hand, and the deputies decide they have to draw a line, and suddenly bullets are flying everywhere, including into Terry Moore’s house, and past the head of Pedro Mendez, who is standing in his kitchen, and through 73 year-old Doris Bradford’s china cabinet, until — one hundred and twenty rounds later, after the unarmed suspect and a deputy have been taken to the hospital, and the officers express the belief they were responding to gang gunfire, and the Sheriff states: “We have to ask ourselves why did 10 people shoot their weapons as opposed to five” — there I am, as if standing in Mrs. Bradford’s living room, looking through one of the bullet holes (just like you are now), and I realize — with this new style of picture (which is not as concerned with separating subject from object, and seems much less like you are looking at something flat or 2-D) — I actually see where the van and the crazy corral of cops got so badly mixed up out there on the corner — even if it is raining this day, and it wasn’t at the time — and that this is how things look now.

The story.

(image: Brian Vander Brug. May 10, 2005 in The Los Angeles Times, p. A1)

  • cj

    Coming soon to a neighborhood near you…the new anti-terror law and order security view! Know that law enforcement is working for YOU by the little openings of clarity onto the mean streets of your town…. Actually, if you live in a “minority” neighborhood, this is fairly common perspective. Cynicism aside, I sorta like the composition of this photo–it puts alot of things into perspective. Notice how the American dream–homes, lawns, utility poles, etc–is all but obliterated by the bullet hole in the glass. Still the view of the street and automobiles is as clear as ever–actually moreso, since there is no longer any glass separating the street from the viewer. What’s the message here? Time to move on outta here, perhaps. Or back to the cynical view, a small price to pay for a quiet street. “See, collateral damage ain’t so bad….” “Ok, I can see my car, but can I get to it without getting shot for ‘dwb–dashing while black’….”

  • cj

    As I think about it, I consider this a decent piece of photojournalism. How often do we get a chance to see from the perspective of a collateral. Maybe I’m just being too generous though…..
    Also, kudos to BAG for a great site and for providing an opportunity to process some of the volume of image over-stimulation we are being served up daily!

  • Tilli (Mojave Desert)

    Najma, A Star from Mosul, a young blogger in Iraq, sometimes posts pix like this showing the latest damage to her house, a neighbor’s house or her school after there has been a firefight or explosion nearby.
    That is what this photo reminded me of. Many things remind me of Iraq these days.
    Scroll down to December 18, 2004 post for photos and the story of what happened.

  • Joe (Sydney, Australia)

    A nice image for viewers outside the USA, reinforcing more than a few stereotypes (not that I believe they apply to everyone there). At least it might convince a few Iraqis that the Americans are without bias – see, they are just as trigger-happy at home. Some Americans do seem a tad nervous, whether up-close or on the news, but what can you do about it if you have to live with them? Just get on with life, I guess, but it’d be nice to get some Kevlar armour for the home.

  • kilowatthour

    It is an interesting effect- the broken glass obscuring the surroundings, and the opening providing a clear view down the street. The tunnel effect emphasizes what seems to be the escape route. I wonder if the “collaterals” want to get out as badly as the photographer does.

  • aethorian

    Seeing the broken glass and the mean street, a similar image came to my mind’s eye: Gordon Parks‘ powerful 1948 Life magazine photo Red Jackson, Harlem Gang Leader [caption added—the photo can be seen in the book 100 Photographs That Changed the World].
    About his long life and wide-ranging career, Parks said:

    I’ve known both misery and happiness, lived in so many different skins it is impossible for one skin to claim me. And I have felt like a wayfarer on an alien planet at times — walking, running, wondering about what brought me to this particular place, and why. But once I was here the dreams started moving in, and I went about devouring them as they devoured me.

  • cj

    Hey, the good news is that the officers involved apologized for shooting up the neighborhood, although not for shooting up the unarmed man–who by the way they “thought” was a murderer on the loose! According to the AP report
    (found at:
    “The shooting followed a brief pursuit. Some deputies thought Hayes, who was driving a sport utility vehicle, had shot two deputies while others thought he was trying to ram them, sheriff’s officials said.
    Emerson said that Hayes “deserved and needed to be stopped” because deputies had been warned that he was a murder suspect.
    Officials later said that Hayes was not involved in the shooting of the deputies, and he has not been charged with a crime.”
    As you can see, modern American democracy is a far cry from those naive days where one is presumed innocent until PROVEN guilty. Now, I understand the importance for law and order in society. On the surface, the “in hot pursuit of a murder suspect” is a plausible justification. But I also know that police are quite capable of over-zealously enforcing l and o. I can recount dozens of experiences from my own youth (and not so youth) where police officers have stopped/detained me for questioning on suspicion of shooting a police officer, neighborhood robbery, etc. because I “fit the description” (to be distinguished from profiling!). It had gotten so bad in the 1980s that I finally got sick of it and started challenging their assertion of f”itting the description.” The description? It varied, but was usually general enough to permit police to stop and question “persons of interest” at will. Suspect had long brown hair. Suspect was last seen wearing green army jacket. Suspect white, male, probably mid-twenties/mid-thirties. Suspect transient/carrying backpack/hitchhiking. etc etc etc. The point is that I doubt that the descriptions were of actual suspects, but rather they permitted a legal justification for police to stop the likes of me to see what I was up to (often this became evident within a few minutes). Fortunately, it never got to the level of my having to dodge bullets, although the Arizona Highway Patrol did feel it was necessary to have three guns drawn against me for standing on the highway, while hitchhiking once! On the other hand, a few police officers were not adverse to harrassing me just for something to do. At this point, I also want to emphasize that I have met hundreds of great police officers in my travels. But then again, I may have been lucky, unlike Malice Green, Amadou Diallo, Winston Hayes, and countless others who could not pass the “sorry to bother you” test.
    So back to the apology. Sorry for shooting holes in your fence, but not sorry for shooting innocent guy–he shoulda known to stop and let us haul him away. After he gets out of the hospital, at least he can sue them for excessive use of force or something. So what’s another law suit. More to the point, at least we can all feel safer that police are protecting us from the innocent as well as the guilty, and encouraged by the knowledge that police departments everywhere are on notice to say your sorry for accidentally shooting up your neighborhood.
    Thanks for indulging me on this one!

Refresh Archives

Random Notes