Did you know that in Delaware it is illegal to consume perfume? Well, that’s what people say anyway. New York-based photographer Olivia Locher’s book I Fought The Law is not concerned with technicalites. In fact, quite the opposite. She has selected her “fifty favourite alleged state laws” and photographed them in her trademark colourful, intriguing, pop-art style. Some of the laws are true, some were true once and some have been passed along as fact so many times they might as well be.
Locher is a young photographer who has garnered a huge following for her work on social media, and her photos have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, W, Glamour, to name a few. With this project, she has demonstrated a talent for blurring the murky lines between the personal and the political, in a visually stunning combination. Her point is that there is no point to many of these laws, and that the legal system and our established social conventions should always be up for debate. The law professes to be definite, hard and unwavering, even when it is wrong. Locher’s photos are the exact opposite of that, drawing attention to the contrived nature of the legal system through art.
There is a darker side to these playful photographs, as many of the laws in the United States today can be used to disproportionately target women and minorities. These “silly, little laws” are used to force abortion clinics to close their doors, to regulate the lives of the queer community and to prosecute people of color for comparatively minor infringements. By questioning established social conventions and the bias in the legal system through her photographs, Locher reminds us that the law is not inherently good or right, and sometimes it's even funny. For example:
In California nobody is allowed to ride a bicycle in a swimming pool.
In Connecticut pickles must bounce to be officially considered pickes.
It Kansas it is illegal to serve wine in teacups.
In Nevada it is illegal to put an American flag on a bar of soap.
In Ohio it is illegal to disrobe in front of a portrait of a man.
In Texas it is illegal for children to have unusual haircuts.
In Utah no-one may walk down the street carrying a paper bag containing a violin.
In Virginia spitting on a sea gull is punishable by a fine.
I Fought The Law is on sale now, and an exhibit of photos from the book will be on display at Steven Kasher Gallery in New York September 14 through October 21, 2017.
Images from I Fought the Law: Photographs by Olivia Locher of the Strangest Laws from Each of the 50 States, published by Chronicle Books 2017.
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Molly McLaughlin is a travel and culture writer currently based in Mexico City. Her work has appeared in publications including Lonely Planet, Refinery29 and Ms. Magazine. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @mollysgmcl.