Henry Hargreaves ‘No Seconds’ photo series recreates the last meals served to murderers on death row in The US. The death penalty always holds a morbid fascination for those of us who live in countries that don’t believe in capital punishment particularly death row in American prisons. We’re well acquainted – thanks to American TV, press, films, books, etc – with many of the country’s more infamous murderers and it is for this reason that these pictures hold our attention.
For Heargreaves – who hails from New Zealand but now lives in New York – the notion of the death penalty and tradition of ‘your last meal’ was bizarre, strange and led him to shoot these photos:
anywhere else in the developed world, the death penalty is just not even in the conversation, it is a remnant of an earlier era. This little bit of civility, ‘Hey, we are going to kill you but what would you like to eat?’ just jumped off the page. I thought it could be a really interesting idea to try to represent visually.
In taking on the project Hargreaves researched America’s more famous prisoners such as John Wayne Gacy- who was charged with rape and 33 counts of murder – and was given lethal injection after a meal of KFC, french fries and strawberries as well as Victor Feguer – who was charged with kidnapping and murder – who asked for a single olive with the pit still inside. It’s truly a morbid glimpse into the mind of a killer.
After finding out their last meal Hargreaves and a chef friend recreated the meals and served them with simple place settings in his apartment.
You can’t gain access to the prisons and there is no imagery available of the real thing, so I had to create them, I have no idea how they serve them their meals — plastic plates or cutlery? — if there is any love put into them or what they eat them on. So these scenarios are imagined as I created them.
Although these pictures are recreations they nevertheless give us a intimate look into the last moments of a man about to die. It is unjust. It is chilling. It is State sponsored death and is wrong. Fullstop. Here’s the final word on the project by photographer himself:
Most people order fried food, or ‘comfort food’ — that notion was pretty chilly, then ones like the single olive were spooky, as you’re left wondering if there was an intended message behind this.
What would your last meal be?