The big picture: a Technicolor tribute to Trayvon Martin


Show caption ‘My intention was to act as a reminder, a means of uniting,’ says Diop of his pictures. Photograph: Courtesy © Omar Victor Diop/Magnin-A, Paris The big picture The big picture: a Technicolor tribute to Trayvon Martin Senegalese photographer Omar Victor Diop pays homage to the teenager killed in a 2012 US shooting Tim Adams @TimAdamsWrites Sun 6 Feb 2022 07.00 GMT Share on Facebook

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In 2016, the Senegalese photographer Omar Victor Diop began what he calls the “liberty project”, dramatising in his studio defining moments of black history. This picture, dedicated to the memory of Trayvon Martin, is the most recent of the events that he portrays. As in all of his pictures, Diop casts himself as the teenager, just as he depicts himself in the shoes of Senegalese second world war soldiers, Black Panther members or freedom marchers at Selma, exploring a common thread within struggles for racial justice separated in time and space.

It is 10 years ago this month that Martin was shot and killed by neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. Martin, 17, was on his way home to his father’s house in Sanford, Florida, from a local store where he had bought iced tea and a bag of Skittles sweets. It took six weeks before Zimmerman was arrested and charged with the killing after a petition that attracted more than 2m signatures; when Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder the verdict sparked the Black Lives Matter movement.

Diop pictures himself as Martin in the hooded sweatshirt that became a symbol of solidarity in that protest – Zimmerman had claimed that the hoodie suggested Martin was “a suspicious guy”. He is surrounded by a sunburst halo of Skittles, sanctifying his image. The picture is included in a recent collection of Diop’s photographs from the past decade. “These people who have been subjected to systemic violence, look at the viewer through the lens and seem to say: no liberty without justice,’’ he says. “My intention in depicting this universal chronology of black protest was to act as a reminder, not as a prompt for any particular claims or complaints, but as a means of uniting.”