College Grads Pose as Criminals in 'Mugshot Series'
These days, every American has become wary of cops. Nearly 500 people have been killed by police in 2015 alone, a majority of this violence being directed at men of color. From Freddie Gray to Walter Scott to Mike Brown, police killings have created a huge amount of civil unrest in communities across the nation. Protests, ‘die-ins’, and pleas to lawmakers have been used time and time again to send a message to lawmakers about reforming and demilitarizing the police. EJ Brown, a Point Park University student, has used his art as protest by taking portraits of his recently graduated friends in their cap and gowns, which he has titled Mugshot Series.
Brown, feeling the weight of all of the violence, decided to shoot seven of his friends in a black and white, mugshot style portrait. While wearing their grad uniforms, each subject holds up a booking slate that states their name and major. Brown hoped to critique the disproportionate targeting of black men by police, and also the way the media portrays these victims, telling MTV, “What if I take that same idea about calling out the media and police brutality and racism and show how successful we are? But that no matter how successful we are for some people, it’s still not good enough…” Brown goes even further, misspelling engineering on one of the booking cards, in order to call out police accused of tampering with evidence in these shootings.
The images are beyond powerful, and reflect a dichotomy that many black Americans face: the simultaneous insistence to strive for greatness while often being depicted as ’criminals’ and ‘thugs’. Brown wishes to inspire other young black men with the series stating “A woman said her young son saw this and he ’wants to be like you guys and go to college.’ That alone was enough for me to do this project.” We applaud EJ for his mixture of art and social critique and anticipate what is next to come from the budding artist.
You can follow see the rest of the shots and EJ Brown’s art on tumblr at Perception of Complexion