Last night I was watching Hello Herman simply because Norman Reedus was in it. Norman Reedus is one of my fav people to watch talk on my television. He’s one of those actors that it doesn’t matter how terrible the movie is, I will watch it until the credits start rolling at the end. Anyways, the movie is about a 16yr old boy who shoots up his school and wants to tell his story to Lax (aka Norman) for his blogger site. Watching it got me thinking of a photo I took in 2006 that barely ever saw the light of day because whenever there was an opportunity for an exhibition or anything everyone would tell me it’s “too soon” to submit it. Well it’s now 2017, can I show it yet before I die?
Wrath: Anger is manifested in the individual who spurns love and opts instead for fury.
In 2006 I was in my final year of photography and working on my big project which was on the Seven Deadly Sins. The idea was for one set of photos to be in black and white and to be serious and the other set to be colourful and more tongue in cheek. The colour side sort of failed me, and that’s probably because most of what I’m thinking tends to be more dark in nature. That’s just who I am.
For wrath I didn’t need to think too hard about what I was going to do. The concept was a school shooting. I wasn’t trying to be sensationalist with it, it was just something I identified with. This was one of those moments where my Fine Art lecturers would have been impressed with me finally, because I irritated them for two years with never having a reason behind my artwork and finally here I was with all my social commentary!
The photo itself was simple to put together. One of the tafe “studios” was actually a classroom and I used a couple of people in my class and my brother who was in Year 12 at the time came in with a couple of his mates to be students. The only downfall was that tomato sauce doesn’t stick to whiteboards so I had to photoshop that. This was the only time I had a clear idea of how I wanted a photo to look and how I wanted it lit. I didn’t want the shooter to be visible and I’m not sure if I consciously knew why at the time I did it but looking on it now I’m realising just having a hand there makes the viewer the shooter and maybe that’s why people found it uncomfortable? Good.
So why did I do this?
In high school I was bullied profusely because of my back by two boys that I seemed to be in every class with. There was really no escaping them and their chanting and in one class the teacher would always walk out which meant an hour straight of tormenting until one day I ran out of class and didn’t come back until lunchbreak. One of the boys told the teacher what happened when he came back and asked where I was. The vice principal said if it happened again they’d be expelled. Luckily for me one of them left school not long later, I couldn’t really recall what happened to the other loser but he grew up to be a photographer and one night outside Fringe Festival heard someone yelling “goat fucker” at some cops trying to detain a guy, and the guy yelling was him. So it’s great to see some people literally never change.
Two classes specifically they would repeatedly say the same thing at me, they thought they were SO funny and some of the other boys snickered at it too encouraging them. Every day I sat there either hurting myself, wanting to die or thinking of all the ways I could get back at them. The latter ruled over the thoughts of suicide. The Industrial Arts class was probably where my brain was the most active because we were surrounded by drills, saws, these air pipe things that if you put it against your skin you could cause an air bubble in your blood and die.. but the reality is if my parents had owned a gun I would have done what all these kids in America keep doing. I don’t even have to think twice about it, and I don’t think it should be shameful to say that as a teenager being bullied that is where my mindset was at. I think it needs to be known that some of us have these thoughts but don’t necessarily act out on them. We’re human afterall. Sometimes we’re just pushed beyond our limits and have no idea how to fix the situation or how to make it end. As a teenager going through this there were two thoughts: I die or they do. That is why I made this photo. I can identify with the shooters. Some kind of empathy. I was that kid in school that people just didn’t see, or people wanted to pick on, not even my parents had a clue. It bothers me every time I see something on the news about a shooting, or even movies like Hello Herman, where people are just so quick to label the shooter a monster instead of wondering why they did it nobody wants to hear that their dear angelic children were being giant assholes to another human being. It’s just so much easier to blame a musician, or a game or a horror film for someone’s actions. How are we ever going to stop bullying in school if we can’t even acknowledge it when this happens?
This is also what I loved about 13 Reasons Why. People seem to love or hate this show and quite frankly everyone knows how to kill themselves and this show isn’t suddenly shining a big bright torch on how to slit your wrists. I don’t see the character of Hannah as having to get the final word or getting revenge either. She’s telling people why she killed herself. Listing all the things in her life that went wrong and she couldn’t cope with. I’m pretty sure we’ve all been there? Even as an adult if a string of things keep going wrong my depression gets worse aka 2016. So why expect a kid to have their shit together mentally? I see that show as making people (as in the viewers, not necessarily the characters) realise their actions have consequences which can be someone killing themselves in defeat.
If you need help here’s some links:
Black Swan Health – I went through these guys last year for help and they were great! If you have a health care card I highly recommend using them as they have a discounted rate.