I took these images the day before the Orlando shootings. And it wasn’t until I was processing them during the week that followed, that I found my purpose as a photographer. It is tempting to believe that our society is in a downward spiral, saturated with bigotry, spiritually-justified homicide, and hate, because those are the stories and images that bombard us all day, every day through every media outlet—regional, national, and social.
Admittedly, it takes effort to yank ourselves out of the violent stupor perpetrated by a handful of people in this big, bright, beautiful world who have learned how to steal news headlines with their vile promises and their heinous acts. But it’s essential that we try—that we collectively shift our attention away from those whose hateful actions are little more than desperate attempts to be noticed and loved, and focus more on the noble actions of those who are living, loving, and fighting for peace.
The world does not need yet another documentary photographer to capture our struggles, sorrows, and separation. While I recognize that this is truly important work to build awareness, increase empathy, and inspire action, I fear that the overwhelming coverage of the world’s atrocities is skewing our perception of our humanity a bit too much toward the shadows rather than the light. And the more we are witness to human destruction and divisiveness, the more we expect it and build up our tolerance for it. In effect, we are anesthetizing our natural human impulse toward peace, love, and togetherness—that is until these moments become more visually dominant than those.
This really is a beautiful world. And when we stop to really see each other, to include each other, to learn from each other, and to look out for each other—we co-create a world where peace is possible. These are the interactions and the moments I wish to document and share with the world. Because this is the evidence of our greater humanity.
These photos are from a Naturalization ceremony I attended the day before the Orlando shooting where not one, but two of my neighbors gave up their national identities and became Americans.
This is my America.