“I Can’t Breathe” George Floyd Poster

A poster in search of justice.

On May 25th, a black American by the name of George Floyd was unlawfully killed by a police officer in Minnesota, USA. The officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, even though Floyd had not been resisting arrest. Floyd had been accused of using a counterfeit note at a nearby market.

In the wake of his death, protests against racist police violence sprung up across the United States and the rest of the world. The outcry sparked a broader debate around the structural racism and inequality evident across the globe, crystallised in the Black Lives Matter movement. This led to many brands and organisations pledging support of BLM, while examining their own practises and engaging in pro-active anti-racist initiatives.

One such initiative was #BillboardPostive, a campaign run by London-based experiential agency Brotherhood Media. During the lockdown, the campaign repurposed unused billboard space to host artwork.

Top this purpose, the agency approached me to reprint my Eric Garner “I Can’t Breathe” poster from 2014. I initially refused, as I felt this could appear as though we were cashing in on the moment.

Instead, I created a new poster. One that would bridge the two tragedies with the fateful words, “I can’t breathe” – the last spoken by both Garner and Floyd. One that voiced the victims of racist violence. One that visualised the frustration and suffocation faced by our communities.

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“I Can’t Breathe” George Floyd/Eric Garner tribute poster by Greg Bunbury.

Using the poster from 2014 as a starting point, I further simplified the design, swapping the sombre background for blood-red. Like much of my work, the typography takes it’s cues from Swiss design, typography being perhaps the most direct way for the expression of an idea. The last word breathe fades into the background, as breath fades from life.

The 48 sheet billboards were printed across London, in Camden, Brixton, Notting Hill, Hackney, and West London.

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“I Can’t Breathe” – Camden, London. Photography by BunburyCo

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“I Can’t Breathe” – Brixton, London. Photography courtesy of Brotherhood Media

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“I Can’t Breathe” – Hackney, London. Photography courtesy of Brotherhood Media

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“I Can’t Breathe” – Notting Hill, London. Photography courtesy of Brotherhood Media

The posters have since become a catalyst for much discussion and engagement. So much so, that myself and Brotherhood have decided to continue with this theme as an ongoing social initiative, called Black Outdoor Art (#blackoutdoorart).

We’re utilising billboards currently empty (either due to lockdown or between campaigns), to curate an ongoing series of posters positively depicting or reflecting black British culture. I’m inviting artists to create poster artwork to feature. To give the community a positive platform for creative expression. To depict positive, constructive commentary on themes including Black Lives Matter, representation, the battle against racism or social issues within the black British community.

Read an interview with Design Week about the poster here.
See more of the #blackoutdoorart campaign here.
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