I wanted to send out warmth, love and healing thoughts to the victims, families, and community at the Washington D.C. Navy Yard. Living within a stone’s throw of the gigantic ships of the Coast Guard, the Port of Oakland and the Alameda Naval Air Station, I’m always amazed by the people who serve our country on the seas and oceans around the world. I often stand in amazement of these wonderful metal beasts we’ve created. I imagine that it is not easy being on the seas in a desert of water. I couldn’t do it, and I appreciate those that do serve and sail, and make our world a more connected and beautiful place.
As we move forward from this newest tragedy, I hope we can begin to address our societal relationship with guns. From Sandy Hook to Columbine to Fort Bragg, guns have taken away so much from so many kind and gracious souls, fighters, and lovers. I understand that gun rights are a complex issue mired with constitutional rights, safety, freedom and societal responsibility. I also know there isn’t an elixir that will turn all our guns into flowers. I do hope we can continue to have conversations about how to disempower the firearm as a physical item as well as a symbol. I cannot fault music or TV or war or photography as industries.
Instead, what I can do [with all due respect to our military, peace officers and others with firearms] is to commit to myself that as a photographer I will never photograph a gun in an empowering, hip or exultingly manner that increases its power as a societal symbol of strength and power. I am in fact guilty of misusing a gun as a prop. I was poking fun at the faked “Palin in a swim suit with a gun” photo in a maternity shoot with my wife. My wife and I both found it humorous, as did many others. But now I can’t stand it anymore. It’s just not funny, because I believe that we would all agree that what makes that photo unique is the placement of a firearm with Palin of course.
So its time to change. No more “cool” photos with guns – I’d rather photograph art, love, and passion. Guns are lame.
I urge other photographers to do the same: Quit shooting guns. Become part of the solution. When someone asks you why – take it as an opportunity to talk about how guns don’t deserve to be celebrated.
So no photographs of women defending themselves with firearms?
No pictures of people stopping physical assaults by using their personal firearm?
The firearm isn’t the issue nor are pictures of it. A picture of a thug holding a firearm, a fist full of cash and a table of drugs sends a message we as a society don’t want but a picture of an elderly person learning to shoot because they were assaulted sends a positive message, doesn’t it?
On my blog, I have a picture of me teaching my 7 year old grand daughter to shoot; not because I made her but because she wanted to learn. The smile on her face was tremendous. The picture taken that day will remind me (and her) of the time we spent together for decades; shouldn’t we cherish that time?
These are all fantastic points that need attention. Thank you for your thoughts, and thank you for sharing those moments with your daughter. It sounds like you’ve created a thoughtful, instructive home. I applaud you for what you’ve done. The question for me is about making this experience public and sharing it via media and print.
I take the issue of defense and protection very seriously. I believe that there are many mechanisms for resolving issues before a firearm needs consideration. Instead, from my experience of being a part an East Oakland community, is that more and more people automatically consider a gun as the only alternative for protection. I understand that every situation is unique and I’m not going to try and address them all. But I know there are non-confrontation as well as non-violent methods to resolving a situation. Sometimes they work, sometimes they do not.
I personally find that images of conflict, status, and power are often laden with guns. I want to make an active effort not to do this in my work, as I did previously. I can sincerely understand your perspective, but I hope you can also consider mine a valid one.
We have a dramatic and serious issue with violence in our country and I want try to create a thoughtful, instructive and safe place where my girls can grow up and interact without the need for personal firearms.
I certainly do appreciate your view point and I also want to create a thoughtful, instructive safe place where my children and grand children, not just the girls, don’t need personal firearms. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
And my not using or photographing firearms isn’t going to create that world. We live in a world where evil exists. Too many people deny that basic fact in my opinion.
Most gun owners, especially those that carry firearms, work diligently to avoid confrontation, De-escalate it if it happens, use the least possible violence necessary to resolve it. We believe the firearm is the last resort.
But consider the images those who choose violence as a first response often see. Do they see people that they would pick as a victim running a Defensive Pistol Course, do they see women shooting accurately and quickly, do they see fathers and grand fathers teaching little girls to shoot?
Or do they just see Grand Theft Auto images, pictures of other thugs looking tough holding a firearm.
We get to choose which images we put out there to counter the negative ones. Let’s not leave the only images available to people the ones that reinforce the criminal use of firearms.