If you don’t hang out at gun clubs, you might picture shooting targets the way they usually show up on TV—a classic bullseye or a plain silhouette. Reality is a little different. Useful Photography, an Amsterdam-based magazine that collects everyday images, pulled together several decades of targets from some of the tens of thousands of shooting ranges in the U.S. for its most recent issue.
“We found that shooting targets in the U.S. are getting more and more bizarre with what they show,” says Erik Kessels, who publishes the magazine. “Our biggest question on the topic was what scares a nation—gunman who hold children ransom or infamous terrorists? In this age of high impact gun crime, are the participants seeking protection or accelerating the violence?”
Over the years, targets have become fully lifelike, detailed characters. “Where traditionally a person on a target was anonymous, now everything is possible,” Kessels explains. “You find dictators, children, mosquitoes, terrorists, fake terrorists, bowling pins, and even pregnant women.”
Last year, one target manufacturer decided to stop selling its No More Hesitation line of targets, which depicted small children and pregnant women holding guns—first created, supposedly, to help cops get more comfortable shooting unexpected people. A bleeding "ex-girlfriend" target from another company was also discontinued. But even though those particular targets may no longer be for sale, a huge range of others still are, from a high school student with a pipe bomb to a Rottweiler.
Kessels hopes the collection helps bring more attention to something that is usually overlooked. "By taking these images from their original context and putting them together in a magazine we hope that people start to look at them again," he says.
Previous issues of the magazine have focused on everything from official cow photography to the opening scenes in porn—all mundane images that Kessels and his co-founders find fascinating. He's bored by professional photography, as he told the Guardian:
For me, serious photography has grown so boring and humourless. All these photographers with large-format cameras making big landscapes with a power plant in the background and everything so beautiful and perfect. That is something I really hate. What I am looking for is ordinary photographs that tell a a bigger story.
[Images: Courtesy of Useful Photography #011, KesselsKramerPublishing 2013]