Exercise 3.2 – A Controversial Photograph

This exercise asks the student to find one or two recent photographs within the public domain that you consider to be ‘controversial’ or to transgress social barriers. Write a short entry in your learning log (up to 500 words) about why you feel it is controversial.

To describe why the following image is controversial, I have a small graphic why demonstrates the rules of gun safety.

The 4 rules of gun safety
1.Always treat a gun as if it were loaded. 2. Never point a gun at anything you are not willing to shoot. 3. Keep your finger on teh trigger until your sights are on the target. 4. Be sure of your target and anything behind it.

On the 28th of June 2020, Black Lives Matter protestors were marching through St Louis Missouri, their destination was the house of the Mayor of St Louis, Lyda Krewson. While the protestors were several blocks away from the house, they were confronted by Mark and Patricia McCloskey.

The couple, who felt their gated community was being invaded, armed themselves and went out to confront the protesters, whom they felt were trespassing on their property.

A woman wearing a black and white horizontally striped shirt and black trousers points a small automatic handgun towards individuals in the foreground of the image, her finger is on the trigger. Her husband stands in the background holding an AR-15 semi automatic rifle. It would appear the woman is reacting to some unseen threat.
Patricia McClosky points a handgun towards peaceful protestors. UP/Bill Greenblatt

Here, one of the couple points a loaded weapon at someone out of the frame; breaking all social conventions about threatening behaviour and also breaking the “rules” of gun safety. While she may have felt threatened and angry about the presence of the protestors, there is no social right to point a loaded gun at someone unless your life is in danger.

This lack of threat can be shown through cubistically unmasking in the same way that the American marines deployment from the helicopter, as spoken by Fred Ritchin in his discussion “Bending the Frame” (Ritchin, 2014) regarding the use of photography in modern media and which I have written about in Exercise 3.1 . The same scene from a different angle shows that there is no one close to the couple or their property and they the protesters are neither threatening nor armed.

This image shows the woman moving towards the protesters who are peaceful. She points a gun towards them. She still has her finger on the trigger.
Patricia points a hangun as she walks down the path. UP/Bill Greenblatt
This image shows the protesters standing peacefully, away from the property of the McCloskeys. who are still armed and holding their guns ready.
The McCloskys holding weapons face the protesters who stand on the pavement and road outside their property. UP/Bill Greenblatt

The complete lack of respect for the lives of anyone around them, and the lack of respect for the danger and power of the weapons they hold is easy to see. The fact that the protestors were there to show that they felt that their lives, the lives of the poor, the lives of the African American, that they have value and that their lives should have worth and value, and that the couple did not value the lives of the protestors is easy to see.

Now that this image has travelled around the world thanks to the digital age and the age of the 24 hours news cycle, the couple feel that  they have been devalued themselves and that their good names and image have been damaged, so they are suing United Press International photographer Bill Greenblatt and the wire service for trespass.

While, I can see the point of the McCloskey’s as suddenly a group of people arrive in their gated community, break a gate to gain entrance and then walk past their house; causing them to fear for their lives and property. In the first photograph, it could be assumed or interpreted that there is an armed aggressor outside of the frame of the photograph. However the other images show nothing but a peaceful protest therefore, I cannot see why they armed themselves, marched out and confronted the protestors, by pointing guns at them.

Pointing a gun at someone, especially with your finger on the trigger, shows that you are ready to pull the trigger and shoot, and that you are ready to end the life of the individual that you are pointing the gun at. That very act demonstrates why the protesters were there. They did not feel that their lives were being given equal value to the people like the McCloskeys.


C/O Berlin (2014). Lecture . Fred Ritchin . Bending the frameYouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=541UY8jgkxU [Accessed 11 Nov. 2020].

Crump, J. (2020). Couple who waved guns at St Louis protesters sue news photographer. [online] The Independent. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/mcloskey-lawsuit-photographer-black-lives-matter-st-louis-b1705257.html [Accessed 11 Nov. 2020].

Greve, J.E. (2020). St Louis couple who threatened Black Lives Matter protesters speak at RNC. The Guardian. [online] 25 Aug. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/aug/24/st-louis-couple-rnc-mark-patricia-mccloskey [Accessed 11 Nov. 2020].

Jackman, T. (2020). St. Louis couple who aimed guns at protesters charged with felony weapons count. Washington Post. [online] 21 Jul. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/07/20/st-louis-couple-who-aimed-guns-protesters-charged-with-felony-weapons-count/.

Lapin, T. (2020). Gun-toting St. Louis couple sue news photographer over infamous image. [online] New York Post. Available at: https://nypost.com/2020/11/08/gun-toting-st-louis-couple-sue-news-photographer-over-infamous-image/ [Accessed 11 Nov. 2020].

Lussenhop, J. (2020). Mark and Patricia McCloskey: What really went on in St Louis that day? BBC News. [online] 25 Aug. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-us-2020-53891184 [Accessed 11 Nov. 2020].

News, A.B.C. (2020). Gun-waving St. Louis couple sues news photographer. [online] ABC News. Available at: https://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/gun-waving-st-louis-couple-sues-news-photographer-74081865 [Accessed 11 Nov. 2020].

Prignano, C., Staff, T.A.P.G., June 30, U., 2020 and Comments, 9:38 a m Email to a Friend Share on Facebook Share on TwitterPrint this Article View (2020). St. Louis man who drew gun during protests says he and his wife feared for their lives – The Boston Globe. [online] BostonGlobe.com. Available at: https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/06/30/nation/st-louis-man-who-drew-gun-during-protests-says-he-his-wife-feared-their-lives/ [Accessed 11 Nov. 2020].

Weinstein, A. (2020). Standing Their Ground in Well-Manicured Yards. [online] The New Republic. Available at: https://newrepublic.com/article/158328/mark-patricia-mccloskey-st-louis-lawyers-guns-protesters [Accessed 11 Nov. 2020].

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