In the 31 US states and various countries where the death penalty is legal, it’s customary to give sentenced prisoners a special last meal at their request. Restrictions do apply — for example, in Florida the final meal can only cost up to $40, and it must be prepared locally.
Food photographer Henry Hargreaves has never agreed with the practice of the death penalty, so when he heard in 2011 that Texas was abolishing the special last meal request for death row inmates, he became fascinated by the tradition.
“I dug into [researching] it, went a little deeper and found a public record [of the meals]. For the first time, these people became humanized,” he told Business Insider. “I thought it was really powerful that through food I was able to have an understanding of these people as real human beings.”
Since there’s never been a published photograph of an inmate’s last meal, Hargreaves shot the meals in various staged settings. “You don’t know if they’re being served on china plates, or plastic, or eating on their laps, or at a wooden table, so I tried to explore all these variations,” he said.
Although Hargreaves has his own opinions on the death penalty, he didn’t want to preach his beliefs with the work. “All I wanted was to make people have the conversation and be aware of it,” he said. “That’s the power of art; it [puts] a mirror up to the subject, and [viewers] can have a conversation amongst themselves and come to their own conclusions.”
Stephen Anderson, 49 years old, California -- burglary and assault, escaped prison, seven counts of murder, death by lethal injection
Ted Bundy, 43 years old, Florida -- rape, necrophilia, prison escape, 35+ counts of murder, death by electric chair
Ronnie Lee Gardner, 49 years old, Utah -- burglary, robbery, two counts of murder, death by firing squad
Allen Lee 'Tiny' Davis, 54 years old, Florida -- robbery and three counts of murder, death by electric chair.
Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, 36 and 39 years old, Massachusetts -- two counts of murder, death by electric chair
In 1977, the governor of Massachusetts issued a statement saying that they had been unfairly tried and convicted. The case is still open.
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