Uzzle Buzz: Mirror Mirror, Man Men

“Uzzle Buzz” is a series of blog posts, written by various authors, that respond to or comment on some aspect of our exhibition All About America: Photographs by Burk Uzzle.

elin o’Hara slavick is Professor of Studio Art, Theory and Practice in UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of Art.

On July 5, 2016, Alton Sterling was executed by a police officer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for selling CDs in the street. Eric Garner was killed in 2014 for selling loose cigarettes. Like so many others, their crime in the eyes of cops was to be black in a racist country. (Had they been white, chances are they would still be alive today.) No justice for Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland. I can’t breathe. Black lives matter.

Burk Uzzle, American, born 1938: Mirror Image, Peace Demonstration, New Haven, 1970, 1970; gelatin silver print. Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Anonymous Gift, 2008.3.23. © Burk Uzzle.

All the men visible in Burk Uzzle’s photograph Mirror Image, Peace Demonstration, New Haven, 1970 are white—two civilians and police officers. We can imagine that if the two activists holding the mirror up were black, the officers would not be lazily leaning against a tree.

We assume Uzzle’s photograph is of peace activists protesting the Vietnam War (or the American War as it is known in Vietnam). During that war, and the many wars since, the United States government and military (thanks to our tax dollars) are responsible for countless deaths, mostly civilians—from Korea and Cambodia to Iraq and Afghanistan. This action—of holding up a mirror so that men in uniform can see themselves confronting (policing) people just like them—did not bring about peace despite the activists’ sincere gesture towards a shared humanity.

I have often thought if we could just reach the gun manufacturers, the companies profiting from the sale of weapons systems, and show them how an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, we could end this perpetual cycle of war and violence. But I have yet to make contact with a gun or weapons manufacturer. Continue reading