This portfolio appears in VICE Magazine's 2019 Photo Issue. With this issue we wanted to celebrate the absurd, the lighthearted, and the humorous. It’s important to take a break from the real world. As much as we need to be informed, engaged, and aware, we also need to laugh. We wanted to champion the people making art with a sense of humor. In today’s climate, there’s something nicely subversive about that. You can read more about our theme in the letter from our editor.
Jill Freedman, a widely respected New York-based documentary photographer, likes the ambiguity in presenting her images without context. But she did agree to give us the back-story on one of the pictures she submitted for this year’s photo issue. In the image, an older woman in glasses sits in the back of a cop car, hands clasped together almost as if in prayer, as she stares out the window with a look of quiet desperation on her face. The photo was taken around 1979, shortly after Freedman had spent a lot of time among policemen for her book Street Cops. She says her mom never really understood Freedman’s devotion to pictures and the vocation it made for her, but she was a good sport during a visit to New York when the two ran into some police officers Freedman knew along Fifth Avenue. Soon after, Selma found herself in the back of the car pretending to plead to be set free. In that moment, everyone involved thought it was hilarious,but at its root the image pinpointed real tension in the two women’s relationship. When asked what the first thing was that Freedman and her mother said to each other as they walked away from the car, Freedman says it was probably right back to her mom asking, “So when are you gonna grow up?”