Ken Gonzales-Day, Kerry James Marshall and Photography as Memory/Memorial

In reading the chapter in Memorial Mania on shame and Ken Gonzales-Day’s project “Erased Lynchings,” I was reminded of Kerry James Marshall’s “Heirlooms and Accessories.” Marshall’s piece takes an image of a double lynching in Indiana, reducing it to near invisibility and drawing attention to three women by placing their images in a locket. Marshall wanted viewers to look at this scene of violence and brutality and consider the implications of what’s being represented and the ways in which it is a spectacle. He says:

“The thing that is the most striking about the image is not so much the brutality, but the casualness with which the audience are there as witnesses, how little regard for the rule of law, how immune they felt from prosecution. So instead of dwelling on lynching, on the brutality of it, that’s the thing that struck me the most. Just how ordinary this all seemed as a spectacle.”

In Memorial Mania, Doss writes that “While there is no ontological basis for photography’s privileged status as ‘a direct transcription of the real,’ particularly since photos can be manipulated and manipulate their viewers, photos are still generally and uncritically perceived as inherently ‘truthful.’” (Kindle location 4965) With this quote in mind, how do Gonzales-Day and Marshall’s work grip us as truthful? Are they more “accurate” than the original images? Do they serve as a kind of memorial or undo typical ideas of memory?

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