Graphic designer James Reynolds recreated the final meals of nine American prisoners executed between 1963 and 2006, then photographed each on an inmate-orange cafeteria tray.

Fastcodesign.com points out one particularly chilling choice in the series, titled Last Suppers:

Consider the meal for John Wayne Gacy aka the Killer Clown: a bucket of original-recipe Kentucky Fried Chicken (which is extra creepy because Gacy had worked for KFC and abused male employees there).

I find it rather disturbing that Reynolds aestheticized the meals so highly until they radiate an almost minimalist sheen. It is an attempt to humanize the criminal or confuse the viewer about our notions regarding good and evil? I found myself staring at each image and psychoanalyzing each prisoner, which proves to be a frustrating and futile experience.

Nine photos in this series seems to be far too little. In this case, more would be more powerful and effective as these photos — and their careful preparation — is really about voyeurism where we are being seduced by a form of food/design/crime porn.

I for one will be delighted when capital punishment is banned not only in America (one of the last Western countries to still practice it), but all around the world. When that day comes, the meaning of these photos will be very very different.

Hat tip Henry C

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Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

One reply on “Killer Last Meals”

  1. It’s an interesting concept, but difficult to execute (no pun intended) without looking like a bit of a tacky pastiche. The phrase ‘banality of evil’ also comes to mind.

    From a vegan perspective, the idea that the murderer consumes the corpse of a murdered animal just before he himself is in turn murdered, has undertones of a deeply entrenched and pervasive feedback loop of barbarity.

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