When I woke up and looked at my phone early on July 20th my heart sank.
My career in photojournalism started in some ways with the Columbine shootings thirteen years ago. I was still in school and it was the first real breaking news that I had ever covered. It was the saddest thing I had ever witnessed, but at the same time covering those events gave me a adrenaline rush. The emotion was so raw and out there to photograph.
In the years following Columbine I got my first newspaper internship then staff jobs. Over the years I shot funerals, memorials, tornadoes, and worked on several photo essays on children with terminal illnesses. I have seen a lot of sadness and raw emotion since April of 1999.
Since leaving the daily newspaper business eight months ago, I have enjoyed doing editorial of a lighter and happier nature and shooting weddings and portraits. But as I read the news updates on my phone I knew that as a freelance journalist, I needed to go to Aurora.
Just as I did in my newspaper days I did my best to tune out my own emotions and try to respectfully capture what I saw unfolding in front of my camera.
However it quickly became clear to me that this would be the last time I would cover an event like this. The adrenaline never appeared, instead I felt for the people I was photographing. For the first time I tried to put myself in their shoes.
On one afternoon while waiting for a photograph at Holmes’ apartment. I saw two boys playing soccer tether ball (feet no hands) on a street sign nearby.
I had more fun shooting these kids for 5 minutes than I did in the seven days that I covered the shooting. I found myself wanting to find out more about these kids. What is their life like? why were they playing here instead of the nearby school yard? Will they be soccer stars one day?
Now I am far more interested in the back story of people, rather than the adrenaline charged moments of breaking news.
I plan to continue shooting editorial assignments and portraiture but I hope I will never have to put myself in these shoes again.