I don’t usually collect crime scene photos, but this image caught my eye. It captured the aftermath of sudden death in such an unabashedly voyeuristic way. The photo demands an explanation, but there’s nothing except the name “W. J. Trotter” and the word “murder” typed on the back. That’s it. The photographer who provided this fascinating tableau will remain forever anonymous.
Three men, all white and well dressed—likely police officers— attend a body on a stretcher. The onlookers—a mix of young and middle-aged African Americans—have expressions of curiosity or concern on their faces. Did they know the person on the stretcher? Probably.
It was cold enough that most of the onlookers have on coats. One boy is even wearing earmuffs. Yet there’s a young woman standing in only sandals and a sweater. Perhaps she didn’t have time to bundle up in her rush get to the scene.
The men with the stretcher appear to be coming out of a store. The sign above the door, “DRINK Coca Cola,” feels incongruous given the gravity of the situation. In the shadows on the door hangs an advertisement for Betsy Ross Bread, a reminder that even in the face of murder, life goes on and people must eat. In the distance a grain elevator looms up in a cloudless sky.
Check back soon for the story behind the photo.