The Final Moments: Gun Violence in Brooklyn, New York
“The Final Moments” is the first in a series of projects intended to inspire discourse and promote action around the gun violence crisis in the United States. The photographs in this project were taken at the sites of fatal shootings in Brooklyn, New York that took place during or after April 2016. To date, I have photographed over 75 fatal shooting scenes in Brooklyn, and the project is ongoing.
I used video footage, news article descriptions, photographs, and geocodes to determine as precisely as I could (exact or within steps of) the location of each shooting or of the victim’s collapse. Rather than pointing the camera at the crime scene, the photographs are taken from the vantage point of the victims so as to ask viewers to momentarily put themselves “in the shoes” of the victims and imagine what the experience of their final moments might have been. The photographs were taken with a wide-angle lens at an oblique angle, to replicate the angle of someone whose head might be lying on the ground. I edited the photographs – adding a vignette and soft focus effect - to evoke a tunnel vision experience that is believed to happen when the brain abruptly loses blood supply at the time of death.
Too often, we are not exposed to the violence that is happening every day in our own neighborhoods, as media coverage is less robust than it is after, for example, mass shootings - which account for a small fraction of the country’s gun deaths. Yet approximately 96 people die on average from guns each day in the United States, and for every one person killed with guns, two more are injured. Americans are over 25 times more likely to be killed by guns than people in other high-income countries. Even though New York State has fairly stringent gun control laws, guns flood in from other states. Out of state guns are responsible for 9 out of 10 shootings in New York.
The photographs in this series are intended in no way to blame the shooters or implicate the victims. Gun violence is all of our problem as U.S. citizens, and something we need to solve together. “The Final Moments” aims to raise awareness and move viewers to take action, such as by advocating for stricter federal gun control laws to protect the victims and shooters alike from our country's gun crisis.
The series was part of United Photo Industries' "Four Freedoms" exhibition in the summer of 2018, and was also featured at the Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn during June 2018 (Gun Violence Awareness Month).