One of the more interesting aspects of the criminal justice system is the ‘last meal,’ which is granted to death row inmates, prior to their execution. While their victims never receive such a courtesy, soon to be executed murderers are given a choice of what they want their last meal to be, as part of a tradition that dates back to pre-modern Europe.
Back in the old days, the belief was that the ritual would prevent the spirit of the executed killer from returning to seek vengeance upon those who ended his or her life, with the offering and acceptance of a hand-selected meal serving as an act of forgiveness, from the executioner to the executed, and vice versa.
Most states here in the United States still offer up the last meal to death row inmates, which is typically served on the day of, or the day prior to, their execution. A strange ritual, for sure, but one that photographer Henry Hargreaves finds to be a fascinating insight into the minds of those who kill.
Born and raised in New Zealand, Hargreaves recently came upon a list of last meal requests, which prompted him to pick up his trusty camera and bring those meals to life. “As I read the requests,” he says, “I began to imagine these prisoners as people and not just numbers. The story became much more real in my mind and I wanted to represent this visually. Our culinary choices often say something about us that we sometimes cannot articulate easily.”
Check out the fascinating photographic recreations below, which Hargreaves calls the ‘No Seconds’ series, and learn more about him over on his official website.