Beginning working life as a high end fashion model it comes as no surprise to My Moustache and I that Henry Hargreaves, now a photographer, developed an obsession with food. From deep frying gadgets to technicolour food stacks, Hargreaves subject matter is often disfigured and re-imagined – a process that leaves the food looking decidedly unappetising. But perhaps that was Hargreaves point. He does have a figure to preserve, after all.
In another effort to dissuade hunger from rearing its fat head, Hargreaves detachment from the comfort and nutritious aspects of a meal has carried on to new heights in his latest and best known work, “No Seconds”. In this series, Hargreaves recreates the last meals of serial killers on death row and in doing so, has ruined mint chocolate ice cream for my moustache and me forever.
The recreation of the meals featured in the series is accompanied by a rap sheet of the person who ordered it made. As you would expect, most of the big dogs of murder are present on the menu- Timothy McVeigh, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy etc. – and for each of the photos presented, the viewer is challenged to deny themselves a brief tangible window into the minds of the condemned. It is interesting and difficult not to ponder what these men were thinking, when with the last decision of their natural life they chose the food they did. What was their connection to the meal? Is it a childhood favourite? And what the fuck was going on with the guy who chose a single black olive?
The lone savoury delight was the choice of Victor Figuer. A convicted kidnapper and murderer, it has been postulated that Victor was trying to make a statement by eating the fruit of a tree often used to symbolise wisdom and peace. The olive acts as a symbolic avowal of atonement by a convicted kidnapper and murderer, to those present at his death. Alternatively, a second theory suggests the single olive is a clear sign the man is medically insane. If you too, like me, subscribe to this second theory this raises questions of its own. Is it eithcal and humane to kill those who aren’t quite like the rest of us? Is it humane and ethical to kill anyone at all? No one really knows and certainly not me and my moustache, so we might leave that point there. On the table. With the dishes.
Moving past major ethical brick walls, Hargreaves work is compelling in that it encourages the viewer to reflect a slither of humanity back onto the convicted men. If the viewer has eaten an olive and they can taste the olive in their own mouth, they now know what the final taste was in the monster Figuer’s mouth as he was strapped in for the last ride of his life. It might have only been a brief second, but sharing a sensory experience with another is undeniably empathy. Which is kind of scary?
Thanks Hargreaves, you creep.
- The Last Meal. Why? (rookerville.com)