People's last meals on death row
Those with an appetite for the macabre will likely appreciate New Zealand-born Henry Hargreaves’ photo series “No Seconds”. Created as a protest to what he perceived to be the barbarity of America’s indifferent implementation of the death penalty, Hargreaves’s photo series contains ten photographic recreations of the final meal requests of inmates facing execution.
Spanning from unknowns to infamous serial killers such as Ted Bundy, the photographs provide a fascinating insight into the minds of men and women facing imminent death. The requests range from the bizarre to the canny, as Victor Feguer’s atypical demand for a single olive with the pit left in couldn’t contrast further from Ronnie Lee Gardner’s desire to have steak, apple pie, and a lobster tail whilst watching the entirety of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (a decision that would have seen him garner an extra 12 hours and 6 minutes of life had he gone for the extended editions).
Who would have guessed that a man charged with 168 counts of murder would have a hankering for two pints of mint and chocolate chip ice-cream before he faced lethal injection? Hargreaves’ work is powerful because of this very reason – it forces viewers into a situation where they must imagine not just the food seen on the plate, but also the very real people behind these requests. Although they may be murderers, burglars, and rapists, Hargreaves is keen to highlight that just like you or me they still have favourite foods, likes, and dislikes. It should also come as no surprise that many of the meals selected fit the bill of stereotypical ‘comfort food’, especially seeing as this final feed is quite literally the prisoner’s sole source of comfort before death.
Hargreaves’ fascinating series does a great job of humanizing the inmate and causing us to question our own rights as individuals to remove someone’s life. By supporting the death penalty are we thereby just as much a murderer as those we intend to execute? These are just some of the weighty sort of questions inspired by this series.
Our question to you is far more straight-forward: What would you choose as your final meal?