Robert Longo, born in 1953 in Brooklyn, grew up into adulthood witnessing the overpowering influence of mass media on society. As he joined the underground artistic scene of New York, he appropriated mass media imagery to create his own art – condemning the violence society was subject to with his signature, highly contrasted, black and white drawings.
Longo’s methodical technique conveys power through its precision; his subjects, depicted on a large scale, present a deep attention to detail – becoming almost photographic. Study of College Shooter, however, is one of the rare exceptions.
On June 7, 2013, a security camera recorded a young adult entering the premises of Santa Monica College, holding an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle; moments later, a mass shooting took place.
The image circulated on every news outlet, inspiring Longo to use it for one of his drawings. The silhouette of the killer blends into the darkness of the room – his body is reduced to a blurred, black shape, as the only truly detailed subject in the drawing is the outline of the rifle.
Although the CCTV source image is very low quality, Longo’s didn’t refine its clarity and kept it slightly blurred – maintaining the connection to the security camera. By separating the image from the news media already oversaturated with violence, Longo isolates the tragic episode in order for the viewer to truly acknowledge it and to imagine, with dread, the aftermath.