Police officers in the United States have killed more than 1,000 people so far this year. The number is staggering. Who were these people? What were their lives like? How did the future look through their eyes?
Some of the names are familiar: Korryn Gaines. Alton Sterling. Philando Castile. Others perhaps less so: Jessica Williams, Tyre King, Deborah Danner. The list goes on.
Last year, when the Guardian and the Washington Post published their databases on police killings, I made a simple project cataloging the locations of all these sites of violence. Teju Cole called it “Officer Involved” and wrote a short introduction for the piece.
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.
Returning to the archive, I’ve reprised the project for 2016 — also sourced from Guardian data and scripted through Google Street View — only instead of focusing on the landscapes, these images point toward the sky.
The police have killed 1,000 people this year. Every frame of this video is from one of those sites of violence. pic.twitter.com/W0g82wPDNn— Josh Begley (@joshbegley) December 21, 2016
Every frame you see here is taken from one of these ghosted places, captured by the nine eyes of a Street View car.
There will be more deaths, of course, before the year is up. Police violence in this country can feel almost metronomic. May the beat slow down in 2017.