Josh Begley, the artist best known for creating an iPhone app that tracks every reported United States drone strike, has used information gathered by activists and journalists to compile his latest work, Officer Involved — a kind of digital collage made up of pictures taken from Google Maps that show where people were killed by police.
The project’s title likely references the phrase “officer-involved shooting,” a term used frequently in mainstream media reports that has the potential to minimize violence committed by police. Some journalists have compared the phrase to a type of Orwellian Newspeak.
In row after row, we see photographs of corners, streets, suburbs, towns, all in daylight, almost all free of human presence. All these images—in spite of the mysterious lyric beauty of some of them—were captured indiscriminately by the all-seeing eye of Google, either with a bird’s eye view or at street level. They were then selected and set into an array by Begley. In one sense, they are the same as any other stills randomly pulled from Google Maps. But when we look at these photographs in particular, we are also seeing the last thing that some other human being saw. It is an immersion in the environment of someone’s last moments.
If it is true, as our ancestors always suspected, that the dead continue to exert some influence on the places where they lived and died, then Begley’s photographic project makes that insight manifest.
How quiet these scenes are, how charged by a crisp light and brilliant clarity. They look like insignificant places, but all of them are full of significance for those whose loved ones died there. All are sites of premature death, all are sites where someone was killed, and most also index an unrestituted crime.
You can see the Officer Involved project for yourself here.