Patrolmen
8 January 2020

Police look at people in way that civilians cannot: they stare, stalk, and discern probable cause. In analyzing the techniques of police in big cities, Jonathan Rubinstein found that the “patrolman learns that he has the right to stare at anyone for as long as he wants.” They judge and make calls based purely on surface details. They collect intimate details, build a profile, and assign it “risk”.

Anyone can stare at a photograph of a person, can look with a held gaze and burning intent, can see the topography of their skin, the accumulations under their fingernails, every stray piece of hair. These details compel us — they pretend to reveal the subject’s interiority.

The photos in PATROLMEN are what Jeanne Randolph calls amenable objects. Their meaning is neither explicit nor disguised; the viewer’s reading neither reality nor fantasy; the evidence presented neither inner nor outer.

The photos let us stare, but they offer no reassurance; they absorb any story, including the next contradictory story.