Final Thoughts on Representing and Misrepresenting Gun Culture Through Photographs: Memorial

In my previous two posts (one on The Void and one on Silhouette) I have reflected on the ways in which photographer Garrett O. Hansen’s series of works collectively called “HAIL” both represent and misrepresent gun culture.

For the final works in this series, “Memorial,” Hansen uses 12 panels each to depict the actual monthly gun homicides in Chicago and Kentucky in 2016. As he reflects, “This work acknowledges and lays bare the heavy price of having a heavily armed civilian population.”

Garrett O. Hansen, “Memorial.” Used with permission.

Not surprisingly, I learned of Hansen’s work through a story in the Michael Bloomberg-funded, anti-gun violence news/advocacy outlet, The Trace. Although I found Hansen’s works interesting (The Void) and even compelling (Silhouette), in the end his work, and The Trace’s coverage of it, follows a very common anti-gun narrative.

That narrative structure moves from law abiding citizens engaging in a lawful activity of having fun shooting at targets at a gun range to homicidal violence involving guns. But what real connection is there between Hansen’s friends shooting the targets he uses to compose Silhouette and the homicides depicted in Memorial?

Or to put it more personally, what real connection is there between me shooting guns at the range with my son and his foreign exchange student and someone getting shot and killed?

Visually, wow do we get from this:

Garrett O. Hansen, “The Void,” Used with permission.

To this:

Garrett O. Hansen, Silhouette. Used with permission.

To this?

Garrett O. Hansen, “Memorial.” Used with permission.



  1. Last image, disturbing, as it could be interpreted as negative. Missing in the series of photographs are, police officer and a family, representing lives of people saved, and families without grief of loss, because a firearm saved a family member.

    In times such as these, people will go out of their way to make gunshot perforation wound illustrations leaking blood or, bloodied handprints on walls to mock murder, and nobody includes anything of a happy family unit, because someone was armed, knew how to utilize deadly physical force correctly and within parameters of law, and had the moxy to carry out violence to defend their family.

    In conclusion, what is presented in proper context, I regard as, “martial art”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If there is a connection between you, your son, and his exchange student having fun at the range vs. people being shot and killed, its statistics. We have roughly one gun for every American and one car for every American. The idea that there will be zero misuse, whether accidental or on purpose, with either of these devices is naive. So if we have universal availability we will statistically, have some probability of shit happening or as one might say professionally, a failure mode.


    • Good point, Khal. The potential for misuse and/or bad outcomes in any human endeavor is ever present. Autos, guns, medical procedures, use of swimming pools and even eating sushi, to name just a few, will statistically have a bad outcome (or failure mode) now and then. The one difference between guns and the other areas of potential harm has to do with the intentions of the actor. IOW, auto accidents and medical mistakes are generally not done intentionally, whereas people often intentionally use guns to cause harm to others. But as we all know, many times that harm is justified and ‘good’, other times it is not. Seems like with guns, a lot of (most) anti-gun advocates do not recognize the good that happens along with the bad, and that can be either a case of conscious omission or of lack of exposure to both sides of the story, or both.

      Liked by 1 person

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