Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Barbara Davidson: Forgotten Shots
Los Angeles Times photojournalist Barbara Davidson chronicles the overlooked journey of those affected by street violence, many of them innocent victims. The work culminated in her winning a Pulitzer Prize earlier this year.
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The world that Barbara Davidson has come to know is one that most people don't read, see or hear much about these days. But for the mothers, fathers, spouses, siblings and friends who have lost loved ones to gang violence and whom Davidson has spent the last few years photographing, it's a world that's all too real.
But statistics rarely tell the whole story, and in Los Angeles County, there are communities where gun violence is still troubling, perhaps making the stories captured by Davidson even more important to tell because national and local statistical trends don't represent what's happening in these neighborhoods. This formed the backbone of the argument she used to persuade her editors at The Los Angeles Times why this was a project worthy committing to as a long-term feature that would ultimately take up more than two years of her life.
"These families aren't interested in statistics; they want their stories told and they want some recognition," she says. "The numbers don't matter. Even one person is too many. These families' lives are forever changed, and their stories are often totally forgotten."
By concentrating on the survivors, Davidson portrays the issue of gang violence in a way that few photojournalists do today. The photographs are so intimate, the viewer can tell that great care has gone into their composition.
By concentrating on the survivors, Davidson portrays the issue of gang violence in a way that few photojournalists do today. The photographs are so intimate, the viewer can tell that great care has gone into their composition. In one of the images, a father kneels at his son's coffin with his eyes closed shut. The son was a high-school football star gunned down by gang members. For Davidson, who was the only photographer the family allowed inside the church, this was one of the first funerals she photographed. She was allowed to stand just behind the coffin next to a family friend, giving her the kind of access needed to be "a fly on the wall," which she says was her goal throughout the project. In another captivating image, a teenager watches as her best friend's coffin is lowered into the ground. She and her friend were leaving a homecoming football game as shots were fired. When she ducked down and turned to ask her friend if she was okay, she saw that she had been shot in the head.
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