Alan Ket captures the names we should know

Alton Sterling

A new photo series by Alan Ket is a quiet and beautiful, but still extremely potent, form of activism at a time when it’s desperately need.

As it seems new headlines comes up almost every day about another person murdered at the hands of the police, more than a few people have taken to memorializing the victims by simply writing their names in public. Sometimes the message is a major production, sometimes it’s small and rushed. Lately, Ket has been photographing some of these small memorials, just tags in black ink, during his commute around New York City.

Philando Castile

The act of writing these names is important because it helps get them into our limited head-space: Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Laquan McDonald, Delrawn Small, Tamir Rice, Anthony Hill, Freddie Gray… of course the list could go on much longer. But these are tags on New York City subway trains. They won’t last long. They’ll be buffed quickly, because that’s how New York City deals with tags on the subway. They don’t want commuters to see any of it. Which is what makes Ket’s photographs all the more important. They serve as a document that these names were written, and might even inspire others to pick up a marker and start writing.

Sandra Bland

As too many police departments try to sweep misconduct under the rug and wish that we’d all just stop saying, writing, and seeing these names, clearly the thing to do is the opposite. These tags won’t last, but Ket’s photos will. Here are a few more, and you can see the full series on Ket’s Instagram:

Laquan McDonald

Delrawn Small

Tamir Rice

Anthony Hill

Freddie Gray

Photos by Alan Ket