I’m indebted to Iconic Photos for yet again revealing the story behind a famous, history-making photograph.
Posted to mark the death of the man who shot it (Bill Hudson of AP), the blogger notes that while police brutality certainly occurred in Birmingham, Alabama, this particular photo “is an icon for an event it may not represent.”
This image, like many at the site, could just as easily called an ironic photo:
Like so many other photos on the blog, the image, however, has a complicated backstory. The youth was a high school senior Walter Gadsden; he was not even a protestor but merely a bystander. The officer was Dick Middleton, a mild-mannered policeman, who arrested Gadsden earlier for refusing an order to leave the street. (…)
Gadsden had his gaze lowered not because of passivity, but because the gaze was on the dog, whom he would subsequently attack. Middleton was not setting his dog on Gadsden but separating the dog away from Gadsden. Hudson’s photo captures the moment as Gadsden plunges his left knee into the dog’s throat…