Hero or Villain

This digital composite was originally intended for the project Target Resistance: The First 100 Days and utilizes a retro “bad guy” target of a thick-set 1940’s or 1950’s criminal aiming a gun. I ended up not submitting it to the project or even accentuating the fact that the image itself was a target. Instead I turned the target into the attacker and made the viewer the target.
I’ve read about and participated in online racial bias studies that presented subjects with individuals of different races holding different objects to measure the effects of race on unintended bias and split-second decision making so I decided to play with the black and white image in a way that reflected those studies. Using the same image in the same size let me use color to distinguish between my three characters. I experimented with keeping the outfits and backgrounds the same colors across all three images (and only altering the skin color) as well as keeping the outfits the same and altering the background and visa versa but aesthetically the current configuration appealed to me more. Ultimately, the color contrasts between the shooter’s skin color and the background and clothes are magnified by using different colors as well as providing more balance to the overall image. The old skyline of New York City as seen from the harbor provides a setting – a place for the event to unfold, is congruent with the time frame of the targets, and slightly dulls the intensity of the yellow and lime backgrounds to more closely match the intensity of the red sweatshirt on the left. There is also a vague sense that the buildings themselves could provide cover. There seems to be the chance for someone to duck and run.
Hero or Villain
In any case, in the piece the viewer faces three individuals aiming a handgun at them. The questions that this forced but harmless confrontation raise include: Do you ignore one or two of the men – and why? Who do you focus on – and why? Is one of the targets more of a threat to you? Or is one of the targets a “good guy” with a gun? How did you decide? Does his skin color match yours? Who would you shoot first?
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