*By Florian Bardou
Jonathon Kambouris is a young American photographer born in Detroit, Michigan in 1982. He currently lives in Brooklyn.
The Last Meals Project is a series of photos of death row inmates with what they requested as their last meal before execution. It’s an exploration of the controversial topic of death penalty in the US, where still takes place many states such as Texas, Virginia, Florida or Oklahoma. Actually, Texas leads the United States in the number of executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 with 482 executions (1976-2012). The most common method is a lethal injection which causes death in 7 minutes. Each execution costs around $86, $100 million every year. United States was the fifth country with the highest number of executions in 2009, after China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
On their last day of the prisoners before the time of execution, they get to choose the last meal. Alcohol or tobacco are not admitted. The cost is arbitrary depending on the State rules, for example $40 in Florida, $15 in Oklahoma. The last meal must be purchased locally. Prisoners are allowed to use a plate and a spoon to eat.
According to the photographer, “Every prisoner waiting to be executed is granted a last meal. Prisoners waiting to die choose their last meal for different reasons. Some choose from past memories, while others feast on what they crave at the moment. Such fascinating details surrounding the final hours before being put to death are a matter of public record and are the inspiration for this series of photographs. Justice may not always be served because the innocent can be proved guilty and the guilty can be proved innocent. Choosing the last meal is a significant ritual because the accuracy and validity of this choice is the only answer one can ultimately accept. This series visually documents the face and last meal of a convicted killer and is without question, honest and true. This will be an on going project as executions continue to take place in the United States. The core of the issue lies not on the emotionally loaded (for or against) arguments, but to question, how is society really served by the death penalty?”