Tattoos on the Heart


Gregory Boyle

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The Photograph Symbol Analysis

The Photograph Symbol Icon

Father Gregory Boyle mentions a photograph that an ex-gang member, Richard, finds of himself. The photograph shows Richard as a happy-seeming kid at the age of ten. As Boyle writes, Richard’s photograph of himself symbolizes his self-worth. Boyle believes that many gang members secretly (or not so secretly) hate themselves—they don’t think they deserve to be loved or respected. Therefore, Richard’s attachment to the photograph was based on seeing a memento of his previous happiness, however distant and small. It was a reminder that he used to respect himself. Recognizing that this photo means a lot to Richard, Boyle takes Richard to get the photograph enlarged. The act of enlarging Richard’s photograph is symbolically an act of enhancing Richard’s love and respect for himself—it’s a manifestation of what Boyle tries to do with Homeboy Industries.

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The Photograph Symbol Timeline in Tattoos on the Heart

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Photograph appears in Tattoos on the Heart. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 9: Kinship
Kinship Theme Icon
Gangs and Gang Violence Theme Icon
The Outcast Theme Icon
...Boyle realizes that Richard thinks of himself as nobody. Later, Richard tells Boyle about a photograph he’s found of himself at the age of ten. Boyle realizes how important this photograph... (full context)