“50 Shots” Puts a New Lens on Society’s Dangerous Misconceptions

In “50 Shots,” artist and Chicago native Imani Amos snapped mug shots of 50 of her black male friends holding placards that list traits—like “father,” “nature freak,” “unofficial comedian” and “mentor”—that aren’t on display when an individual is walking down a city street. Subtitled “America’s Most Hunted,” the installation, currently open to the public at Logan Square’s Beauty & Brawn Art Gallery, is visceral and urgent. It’s an installation Amos hopes that every Chicagoan—but police, in particular—will take note of.

50 Shots Project

Imani Amos’s “50 Shots Project” turns the mug shot on its head.

After viewing the photo essay, “if they saw one of the guys from my show walking down the street, they could automatically register, ‘He plays tennis. He has a kid,’” she explained. “You could associate something positive with the guy as opposed to jumping to a negative.” For that reason, Amos continued, “It was important for me that [participants] lived in Chicago.”

Amos conceived of the project prior to this year’s events in Ferguson, New York City and, most recently, South Carolina, back when she herself lived in St. Louis as a student at Washington University. But “50 Shots”’ simple message is—unfortunately—timeless, and unnervingly powerful.

“When I walked in the first day after we installed it, it’s powerful. [There’s] an energy,” Beauty and Brawn Founder and Co-op Member Lindsey Meyers said.

“50 Shots” has proved powerful not just for viewers, but for the subjects themselves, who used the platform to start a conversation about themselves as individuals.

“People often aren’t given a chance to say who they are,” Amos said simply.

Erin Robertson is managing editor at Chicago Ideas.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.