Editor’s note: The Chronicle has decided to include the controversial image in question at the bottom of the article. The image contains content that may be disturbing to some readers – though no one was actually harmed in the making of the photo. If you do not wish to see it, do not scroll down.
The photograph shows a male’s arm, palm facing up, with several bloody cuts across the forearm. The hand is holding a cellphone with the screen up. The number of the suicide hotline dialed.
The photograph was titled after “1-800-273-8255”, a song by the artist Logic, and was part of a group of three images hung at the end of the art hallway. The image has sparked conflict and discussion between individuals here at U-32, who find themselves questioning whether the piece should have a trigger warning, or even is appropriate to be displayed in a school environment.
A photo displayed alongside the controversial image
The artist, sophmore Cameron Edson, explains that he’s had a cutting addiction in the past. “I just wanted to show that people can go through some hard stuff and still survive, and have the strength to get through it,” Cameron said, explaining that he meant for the piece to be hopeful, rather than triggering.
“I more or less knew some people would take it in the wrong way because there’s no explanation next to it,” Cameron said.
“What I should have done was ask students what I should do for the picture so people weren’t taking the piece in a wrong way, or have a piece of paper over it explaining it first.”
Cameron said he simply didn’t have time to make that sort of trigger warning before putting the piece up.
Reflecting back on the piece, Cameron says “Now that I think about it I should have had a clean arm and the cut arm just to show what can be accomplished.” Cameron explains that he’s attempting to support suicide prevention with his artwork.
Before making the piece, Cameron asked his teacher, Krista Dy, for permission.
“I’m totally for it,” Krista replied, “but we have to get it approved by the administration.” In the end the photograph was ruled safe to put up for the art show.
Still, students and teachers had different reactions.
Krista, for example, was not only impressed by the piece, but also thought it addressed an important topic for teenagers. “I remember vividly what it was like to be a teenager,” she said, “and how uncomfortable it was. The teenage spirit is dark.”
The idea of a trigger warning made Krista nervous because any type of art could be upsetting to someone, and the point of art is to make people feel things. Why should some art be covered but other art not?
Some students have had quite different opinions, though.
“I thought it was disrespectful and it was extremely triggering,” senior Nicole Suker said, “and there was no warning for anybody around there.”
“I think this school works very hard to keep awareness of mental health,” Nicole said. “So for them to have that message of wanting to promote mental health awareness, it goes against what the school is trying to do to display something like that.”
“This is a problem at U-32 and this needs to be addressed,” junior Kaisy Wheeler said. “But it needs to be done with caution.”
“I think a trigger warning would be good because it’s something you see a lot at U-32, so there are a lot of people that it could bother,” junior Harley Dewald-Emick agrees.
Senior Alexander Bell sees both sides.
“At first I thought there shouldn’t be a trigger warning because I thought that people shouldn’t be allowed to ignore bad things in life,” Alexander said. “But once I thought about it more, I thought it could be a warning for people who this could actually hurt, because it could remind them of their own past experiences, or bring up an episode for them.”
Alex has been friends with Cameron for a few years. “I always called him Edson because we played football together,” Alex says fondly. He explains that he isn’t surprised that Cameron made this photograph, but he doesn’t feel the need to try to help or console to Cameron. “I’ve never had to reach out to Cameron, because there was a point where he reached out to me.”
Though the art show never took place, Cameron has put the photograph with its two counterparts onto his photography Instagram account, but has refrained from putting it on any of his personal accounts. He says there are already a “decent amount of likes” on the photo, but no comments yet. He’s working on setting up a trigger warning for the picture on the Instagram account.
Cameron’s personal opinion of the piece hasn’t changed since the disputes and discussions about it. “I still like it because I know the meaning for it, but I feel bad because my intentions weren’t to upset people, or to make anyone have a triggering experience,” he says. “I apologize to anyone who was upset or hurt or offended by the piece.”
“1-800-273-8255″ by Cameron Edson
The controversial image