Election 2020 | What Matters : Charlie McCullers:Ricochet

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Charlie McCullers aim is true in the artfully combined narrative and images of Richochet. McCullers captures in simple, yet profound images of guns confiscated during criminal investigations, the great dichotomy of American freedom. Paired with an essay as lyrical as it is thought provoking, he finds a gray center in the black and white battle over guns in America.

Conflicted, he presents these instruments of death—beautifully printed and presented—with a ragged tear through their center, emasculating the weapon in the same way the weapon diminished its target.

Some may argue the semantics of my descriptor as “instruments of death”, but these particular weapons were confiscated after crimes and the primary purpose of these guns was indeed death, or at least the ability to communicate that possibility to the crimes’ victims.

McCullers himself strides both sides of the raw divide, and in presenting the weapons with utmost photographic skill the industrial beauty of design is undeniable. It is the bisecting tear that aims at the heart of his process, presenting the conflict in its essence. Guns are a talisman to freedom, yet in modern times—as witnessed recently in the public squares of several cities by self-styled cosplay militias with real weapons and real bullets—it is also a tear in the fabric of society.

With simple artistry and profound writing, McCullers has elevated his art to a philosophical challenge. On which side of the tear are you?

— Billy Howard

The issue of Guns in America is an epidemic that centers on sovereign entitlement and victim-based consequence. The dead have lost their voice. Replaced instead by the boisterous impassioned pleas of gun control advocates who speak on their behalf, simultaneously opposed by the blaring pronouncements of 2nd amendment defenders who bellow their rights louder than a muzzle-loaded discharge.

Unresolved of my personal position on gun rights and control, I have pitched my tent in both camps and struggle to come to terms with living on the border of two ideological combatants. It isn’t easy for me, deciding between the issues of Liberty and Death.

The guns presented here are tangible and symbolic, acting as both arbiter and artifact. They were confiscated from crime scenes, convicted in a court of law; rendered complicit and found guilty. Once sentenced, their firing pins are judicially eradicated and the guns are rendered impotent of their killing-prejudice. Reduced to a eunuchal existence, these weapons no longer manifest as target to a control-minded crowd, nor do they filibuster with the full-voice of a gun-rights advocate. Instead, they remind us of the complicated viewpoint of a society that simultaneously regulates and celebrates, with titillation and bluster, our tendency to co-exist as victim, victor, judge and jury. All the while, conveniently deflecting the burdened weight of an unintended ricochet- guns exist with a single-minded purpose, whether they are regarded as valiant and vindicated, or vilified with evil intention. When you place your palm on the butt of a gun and you squeeze a trigger in passion, people tend to die. Good people, bad people and the innocent bystander- all are equalized by a bullet, and many are affected by its delivery.

The un-repentant, and irreversible, distance between a fingered trigger and a bullet-scared body is both narrow and deep. Perhaps a sober view, balanced between passion and purpose, will one day revisit this gulf of circumstance that connects the oceans of commandment, amendment and common sense. Until that revelation occurs, we are left with a chamber of loaded opinions and an elusive target.

–Charlie McCullers




Charlie is a working photographer from Atlanta. Opening a commercial studio in 1985, he has produced numerous award-winning advertising/collateral/exhibition campaigns for Fortune 500 companies, professional athletic teams and international arts organizations. McCullers matriculated from the University of Georgia with a BFA in photographic design and holds an MA and MFA in photography from the Savannah College of Art and Design. McCullers and Montalvo are represented in Atlanta by Jackson Fine Art.



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