Posted by: irisestellerobinson | November 17, 2014

Incongruous Images

While scrolling down my Facebook feed I came across yet another BuzzFeed article, but this one didn’t seem to be purely clickbait, it was a series of photographs by Ed James. As well as feeling an immediate kinship with him as he came from the UK to America I was also interested in his images. The 10 photograph series is called ‘Murder Weapons’ and each piece shows a replica of an unusual object that was used to murder someone, below are a couple which were most thought-provoking to me:

James Crucifix

James Spoon

So how do these images relate to Victorian visual culture? Well honestly I did want to write about the James photographs before I thought of a link but reading some of his comments on his own work made me draw a parallel with the Sekula image of the ears we looked at in class (below)

Sekula ears

James said that he “wanted each object to be unusually lit and out of context to mirror the way the killers used them” and they certainly are out of context like the ears in Sekula’s analyses of anatomy. Both the James and the Sekula remove their subject from context and this choice has a startlingly similar effect to me even though one is decidedly artistic in purpose and the other intended to be practical. These images all are kind of eerie (Sekula pun intended) but somehow they are intriguing, forcing us to take their objects focus in a way we would not initially.

Ed James’ photographs also reminded me of the collection ‘No Seconds’ by the amazing photographer Henry Hargreaves which pictures the last meals of criminals who were sentenced to death. Below are a couple of examples:

Hargreaves KFC

Hargreaves olive

So what do you think is the effect of all these incongruous images? Do you like them, do you hate them? I’m interested to hear any responses!

Original BuzzFeed post:

The series on Ed James’ website:

Henry Hargreaves ‘No Seconds’:


  1. What I’m really interested in is how that man managed to kill someone with a spoon.

  2. Haha me too, it’s actually quite impressive…

  3. I am so glad that you brought up Henry Hargreaves! I love that “No Seconds” series. I have been thinking a lot about object as portrait lately and am really struck by both Hargreaves and James’ work. They really capture the mortality surrounding photography (like the maternity reading we did last week from Pleasure Taken) while subverting notions of a ‘truth claim’ since the subjects being captured are (hopefully) emblematic of more than a spoon or a bean.

    That being said, the way that intimacy is conveyed, especially through “No Seconds” is just wonderful. By taking two things that are so central to the human existence: food and death, and then highlighting how they interact in specific cases, like on death row, it creates a type of humanity and connection in its representation that does not need a body or a person to communicate it. Rather, like the Sekula, these images also become archives, not of the body, but of the people.

    I would say the other end of the spectrum of this might be the famine photography that we looked at, where the body is so emaciated. I am tempted to say that the body comes to represent not just the subject but the political circumstances that lead to the absence of food and the mortality of the subject.

    Thought on spoon: The victim had a terrible metal allergy?

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