In 2006, my eldest brother was responsible for the Nickel Mines School shooting where five young Amish girls lost their lives. No one will ever understand why this seemingly well-adjusted father of three with no previous criminal record carried out such a heinous crime—least of all us, his family, which he left in tatters.

I lived in New York at the time, and my initial reaction was to escape reality and ignore the accident as much as possible. In the years following the tragedy I only occasionally visited my family. Three years later I moved to Stockholm, Sweden.

In early June of 2015, I made a life-changing decision: I decided to purchase a Leica. Photography, which I had only dabbled in as a teenager, suddenly became my new obsession. This past winter, when my mother’s breast cancer returned and she was given a short time to live, I went to live with my parents in Pennsylvania for several months. I yearned to reconnect with my family, and time was short. Photographing my family members became an important part of the healing process for all of us.

I also decided to incorporate images of the Amish people who live in the surrounding area, as my family formed a unique connection with these people in the aftermath of the terrible tragedy. That bond is based on an incredible act of forgiveness on the part of the Amish.

—Zachary Roberts

Editors’ Note: This work was recognized by the jury of the LensCulture Emerging Talent Awards 2016—don’t miss the work from all 50 of these outstanding talents!

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like one of these previous features: La Longue Nuit de Mégantic, about a community’s response to a devastating rail accident; Shot, a series that uses antique darkroom techniques to comment on contemporary gun culture; and Gun Nation USA, a portrait of the nation’s love affair with guns.