Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Kiwi's Death Row meals stir up art world

Kiwi photographer hopes images depicting final prison dinners will allow people to see inmates' human side

Hargreaves said he wanted to show that the death row convicts were also people.
Hargreaves said he wanted to show that the death row convicts were also people.

A New Zealand photographer has recreated the last meals of death row prisoners for a controversial series which has featured at a major international art exhibition.

Henry Hargreaves, a former model and face of Prada, is no stranger to creating a stir in the art world - he has previously produced a series of 3D photos of women's breasts and deep-fried iPads and laptops.

Hargreaves, who went to school at Christ's College in Christchurch, has produced a series of photos depicting the last meals that some of the United States' most infamous killers enjoyed before they were executed.

They include the last requests of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who had two pints of chocolate chip and mint icecream, serial rapist and killer Ted Bundy, who had steak, egg and hash browns, and John Wayne Gacy jnr, a KFC manager who murdered at least 33 teenage boys, who ordered a bucket of original recipe chicken from his former employer.

"I wanted people to, just for a moment, be able to identify with them as people, rather than just statistics," Hargreaves said.

The New York-based photographer took photos related to 12 executions.

Subjects include people pardoned after their deaths and a woman, Teresa Lewis, who was executed in 2010 for arranging the murders of her husband and stepson.

"There's only ever been 12 women executed in the States out of around 3,000 executions," said Hargreaves, 34.

His inspiration came from reading that Texas was abolishing final meal requests.

Although information about last meals is a matter of public record, there have been no official photos, so Mr Hargreaves was free to come up with his own interpretations, shot in a stark, matter-of-fact manner.

"I didn't want any moody lighting or anything. I wanted it to show the second they pulled up their chair and were about to pick up their utensils."

The work has been picked up by the organisers of the Venice Biennale, a major contemporary art exhibition.

"Some people have accused me of glorifying it, but most people are fascinated and have had the same reaction as I had - who were these people going in and standing in front of a firing squad, sitting in a chair, or getting an injection, and what were they thinking?"


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