Former Kernel staffer’s photo goes viral


The dog of fallen Bardstown police officer Jason Ellis, Figo, pays his respects on Thursday, May 30, 2013. Photo by Jonathan Palmer

By Will Wright | @KyKernel

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A photo taken by former Kernel photo editor Jonathan Palmer at the funeral of a slain Bardstown police officer has been shown around the world.

The photo, seen above, shows a police dog named Figo placing a paw by the casket of his fallen partner, Bardstown Officer Jason Ellis.

The image was first seen on the Lexington Herald-Leader website and was published in the paper on Friday, May 31. Since then, the photo has gone viral on websites such as Reddit, was featured on NBC’s show and has and received attention from other media outlets around the world.

Palmer, now working as a freelance photographer in the Lexington area, took the photo while on assignment for the Herald-Leader. He wants the photo’s attention to have a positive impact for the family and the ongoing investigation into the officer’s killing.

“I hope that in any way that the outreach of this photo and the sharing of this photo can bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice,” Palmer said. “I feel that photojournalism has done a good thing, and with all the outpouring of support from the people around the world who share this photo, it really goes to show that people care about other people.”

Palmer hopes that when people express their emotions and feelings after seeing the photo online, there could be some catharsis for the family.

“You never take a photo thinking it’s going to impact that many people,” he said.

Law enforcement officers from surrounding states attended the funeral, as did local residents and family members.  The procession then moved from Parkway Baptist Church in Bardstown to Highview Cemetery in Nelson County, where Palmer took the photo.

“I saw an outpouring from the community, family and from fellow law enforcement officers beyond like anything I’ve ever seen before,” he said.

Palmer made his way down the edge of a tobacco field adjacent to the burial service in order to capture the shot.

“We were trying to be respectful of the family because they didn’t want to be photographed so we positioned ourselves where we could still see the officers who were paying their last respects without impeding too much,” he said.

Palmer said that the photograph of Figo that has since gone viral did not seem any more compelling than some of the others he shot at the service.

“It wasn’t the photo that stuck out to me,” he said. “On first glance there were other images where the officer’s colleagues were mourning, and they seemed to be more powerful.”

The relationship between dog and man is something people can connect with, Palmer said.

“The posture of the sheriff’s deputy who was handling the dog and the dog itself really brought home that bond that animals have with humans,” Palmer said. “There’s an innocence of a dog’s mind and a lot of times they do humanlike things that people gravitate towards.”

Palmer, who graduated from UK in 2005 with a degree in studio art with concentration in photography, plans to donate the money he receives from the licensing fees of the photo to a local animal based charity.