A New Photography Project Calls Attention Back to Amadou Diallo Shooting

Steven John Irby’s ‘41 to ’99: A Photo Essay’ sets the stage for Ava DuVernay’s LEAP

Tracey Ford


Before George Floyd and the many others we marched for this year, there was Amadou Diallo, who was shot 19 times in the doorway of his Bronx, New York, apartment by plainclothed officers 21 years ago. The four officers involved were acquitted. One of them, officer Kenneth Boss, was eventually promoted.

Photographer Steven John Irby’s latest project, 41 to ’99: A Photo Essay, centers Diallo’s murder — the tragic killing of an unarmed Black man by police. The officers fired 41 bullets at Diallo, who they mistook for a rape suspect and claimed was reaching for a gun. Diallo was unarmed and reaching for his wallet to identify himself.

Irby’s photo essay is the first of a series of projects emerging from Ava DuVernay’s Law Enforcement Accountability Project (LEAP). The program plans to support 25 projects over the course of the next two years — including mediums like film, theater, photography, dance, and so on — via DuVernay’s nonprofit Array Alliance.

“I wanted to make sure that we launched with a case that was a deep wound that had never healed,” DuVernay told the Washington Post. “That case created so much harm beyond the death of our brother because of the secrecy and the years-long lack of visibility into what was going on then,” she adds. “No one was truly held accountable in the way that many feel should have been.”

Check out 41 to ’99: A Photo Essay here.