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December 18, 2012

Can’t Bear to Look: Why the Media is Full of Distorted/Freak Photos of Adam Lanza

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#1 via HuffPost Crime

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#2 via Mirror UK

NewImage #3 via andrewazzopardi.org. Photo apparently cropped to place Lanza at the periphery.

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#4 via Herald Sun

NewImage#5 via andrewazzopardi.org.

Screen Shot 2012 12 17 at 1 29 18 PM

#6 via Examiner.com

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#7 via cbslocalnyc

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#8 via REX USA – ghoulish black-and-white photo from People, among other places.

Screen Shot 2012 12 17 at 1 24 40 PM

#9 Misidentified with this picture (the hand gesture terribly easy to misconstrue) from his brother’s Facebook page. via El Diario.

If you examine the limited set of pictures available of Newtown shooter Adam Lanza, you will notice the media has been consistently blowing the photos up beyond normal resolution, cropping them in irregular styles or otherwise tweaking their display so the kid becomes distorted in all kinds of ways. I can only guess at the reasons, ranging from speed and carelessness; cheap editorial payoff (in other words, making Lanza look more like a freak, a monster or an apparition from another-world) or to just equate “unknowable” with fuzzy.

…And then, to the extent site after site seems obsessed with excessive cropping and zooming till Lanza becomes a moiré pattern, I’m guessing there’s an editorial instinct out there that jamming him under a magnifying glass might somehow makes this sense- and information-defying figure more accessible somehow.

Now I understand some people, maybe most people will read this and say “so what,” seeing Lanza (shape-shifted, or not) simply as the anti-Christ. But I have a simple point to make. If we’re going to learn from this tragedy, especially with all the question marks that exist surrouning mental health, distorting Lanza’s image beyond his already thoroughly internally-distorted self is a bad idea. Rather, it is incumbent on us to try and see him as clearly as we can.

I should add that there are several photos also circulating (mostly from a younger age - 12) that show Lanza as less of a freak. The photo below, in particular, shows Lanza at the oldest and most expressive, complete with details in the background that one can speculate about. (Click for full size.) Because you can’t encounter this expression without have to actually relate to the kid, though, I guess it’s not surprising the media is mostly opting for the weirder stuff above.

Postscript:

With all the distortion in mind, below are what I’m assuming to be the best/most original versions of the permutations/mutations above, with captions:

(click for full size)

caption: This undated photo shows Adam Lanza, third from the right, posing for a group photo of the technology club which appeared in the Newtown High School yearbook. Authorities have identified Lanza as the gunman who killed his mother at their home and then opened fire Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, inside an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., killing 26 people, including 20 children, before killing himself. Richard Novia, a one-time adviser to the technology club, verified that the photo shows Lanza. (AP Photo)

Adam Lanza

Photo circulated by local law enforcement via NBC News/AP.

Adam Lanza blue shirt

This 2005 photo provided by neighbor Barbara Frey and verified by Richard Novia, shows Adam Lanza. Authorities have identified Lanza as the gunman who killed his mother at their home and then opened fire Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, inside an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., killing 26 people, including 20 children, before killing himself. Novia was the school district’s former head of security and he advised the school technology club that Adam and his older brother belonged to. (AP Photo/Barbara Frey)

(linked photo 1: Enterprise News and Photos. linked photo 2: 12/15/12 Photo of Adam Lanza that was taken when he was a middle school student at St. Rose Catholic School. in Newtown. Photo courtesy Kate Foy  -Photo courtesy Kate Foy / December 15, 2012. Lanza with poster photo: found at via glasistre.hr)

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