Photos by: John Messner
Article by: Debra Dylan
“When I was sixteen, a man taught me black and white photography, and I started working at a newspaper. That was over thirty years ago,” says John Messner.
Today he works full time renovating rental houses. “I consider my photography a hobby. I always keep my camera with me, and I listen to the police scanner whenever I can.”
In 2015, his hobby led him to a scene he could not have anticipated. “I just went up there [Fort Sanders neighborhood] to take pictures of kids [at a party] getting arrested and put into the paddy wagon. I was up on some steps near the paddy wagon. I took a total of 350 photos,” he says.
One of those photos went viral. Messner was in the right place at the right time when a Sheriff’s deputy began using a compression hold on a young man’s neck. Messner says, “He was squeezing the boy’s carotid arteries until the boy’s legs gave in. I was scared. I thought he was going to die.” Messner made a time lapse video of sixty photos relating to this incident.
He says, “I never went out that night with the intention of photographing a Deputy choking [Jarod] Dotson. I don’t get great pleasure being the one who captured it. I wish it never happened, but it did. What kind of person would I be if I saw Dotson abused like that and remained silent?
“You never know what you are going to get when you get out there,” he says. “I’m desensitized to what I see. I’m more worried about my photography and I try to stay focused. The funny thing is I take pictures, but when I get home and look at the photos, I have things I didn’t know I had.”
His portrait and action scenes are not deliberately artistic. “I thought the photo of the Linden Avenue fire (below) looked like a painting, but I didn’t see it that way as it was happening.”
(click on photos to enlarge)
These photos may not be downloaded or used without John Messner’s permission.
© Knoxzine, 2015 (text only).