by Scott Shapiro | Edited by Deborah Hussey
All photographs by Kathy Shorr
The subject of guns is one of America’s most polarizing issues. Photographer Kathy Shorr examines this complex topic, sharing the diverse, authentic stories of survivors of gun violence in order to spark an open discussion.
“In order to work on gun violence, you have to compromise.” – Kathy Shorr
Kathy Shorr and her young daughter were confronted by armed robbers who had gained access to her home in New York City’s West Village. The incident left her with a sense of paralysis that only comes from being held at gunpoint. Years later, while teaching photography to at-risk students in New York’s public schools, Shorr was once again confronted with the reality of gun violence from seeing the losses her students experienced as their family members and friends were slain by guns.
But what about the survivors of gun violence?
A news story about a Brooklyn man who was wounded in a shooting motivated Shorr to contact him and request a meeting. The man agreed to be photographed at the location where he was shot, showing his scars and telling his story. This encounter was the beginning of SHOT.
SHOT shares the stories of gun violence survivors, focusing on people rather than statistics. The series features Americans of various ages, ethnic backgrounds, and socioeconomic standings. Shorr also made the project geographically diverse, traveling more than 100,000 miles in two and a half years, in order to portray situations from every corner of the United States. SHOT features people from inner-city youth to suburban dwellers and NRA members, and highlights the complexity of this issue. The subjects were photographed at the locations where they were shot—often ordinary, banal places—to highlight that this can happen to anyone anywhere. Most importantly, SHOT offers a starting point from which all Americans can reflect upon this issue that affects each and every one of us, not clouded by political bias.
For Shorr, no survivor or story was more interesting than another; each person’s situation is weighted with its own background, and comparing these experiences would take away from simply sharing the subjects’ voices. Shorr does note, however, a unique dynamic in the stories of the 20 people featured who were shot in acts of domestic violence. While the rationale for shooting another person—whether an acquaintance or stranger—often varied, situations of domestic violence appeared to almost always be with the intent to kill. These are acts committed on someone that the perpetrator had once loved, or could still love. Domestic violence proved to be a problem that affects every aspect of society.
Has gun violence become a part of American culture? From the Revolutionary War to popular themes like the “Wild West,” gun culture helped to define Americana, permeating all aspects of pop culture. Films, television, video games, and other media have blurred the lines between reality and fiction. The issue is about guns, but it could be even more about American attitudes toward violence. And the end result is an abundance of gun violence, which is increasing on a daily basis.
Through SHOT, Kathy Shorr shares the voices of survivors of gun violence. It is her hope that this project will become a catalyst for discussion rather than our polarized attitudes regarding self-protection and Second Amendment rights. As Shorr puts it, “we must have an open dialogue about subjects, no matter how uncomfortable.”