For the July / August issue of the Wired cover story “The Internet Giant Who Went Too Far” I photographed Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin as they await trial for owning and operating the online classified giant Backpage.com. Backpage was the red-light district of the internet or the Google of commercial sex ads and described as “a platform that dominated its market as thoroughly as Facebook dominated social networking or Amazon did online retail” and for this both men face life in prison.
Larkin and Lacey founded The Phoenix New Times (my first ever assignment) and bought The Village Voice as they built the country’s largest chain of alt weeklies. They were known for their crusade-like journalism as they went after the McCains, Walmart, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, The Church of Scientology, and The NFL. And for this they made many enemies, enemies who are seeking retribution for the 30+ years of Larkin and Lacey relentlessly investigated those in power. “As a journalist, if you don’t get up in the morning and say ‘Fuck you’ to someone, why even do it?” - Lacey
If found guilty, this sets a scary legal precedent for silicon valley and any online platform. Lawmakers would have finally torn a hole in Section 230 of the Communications Act and could hold tech giants such as Twitter and Facebook accountable as they would no longer be immunized from user generated content.
As Both men await trial, they are under country arrest and cannot travel. Photographically I wanted to portray Lacey and Larkin in a way that spoke to their decades of defiance, possible incarceration, the shadowy space in which back page operated, and their physical and psychological imprisonment as they are confined to their homes and Maricopa County.
Article by Christine Biederman and assigned by Beth Holder and Anna Alexander.