Is an Uptown graffiti image a riff on a famous photo?

uptown graffiti photo
By Alex Rawls

Recently while driving Tchoupitoulas--one of the few ways to escape Uptown--my wife saw some new stenciled graffiti on the side streets. We doubled back and found one wall that looked like a place where someone tried out stencils of dollar signs, spray paint cans with hearts on them, and a younger George W. Bush's head. Around the corner is a clown made scary by its sloppily painted red nose and blue tie.

The one that got us thinking is a stenciled image of two boys, one pointing at the other, one pointing at the viewer, with a bullet hole-like mark beside one of the figures. It seems to be assessing blame, but it reminded us of a famous photo from the Vietnam War, "Saigon Execution" by Eddie Adams. In it, the figures are similarly posed, but Adams' photo was taken split-seconds after the Saigon police chief shot a man in the head. The facial response on the victim captures him as the bullet is going through his head.

There are differences between the graffiti image and Adams' photo, but the similarities made us wonder if the street artist was deliberately referencing Adams' photo, or if any similarlity is coincidental. If one is a deliberate echo of the other, what should we take away from that?

uptown graffiti photo By Alex Rawls

saigon execution photo by eddie adams "Saigon Execution" by Eddie Adams