Finding inspiration in tragedy

Photographing people at their worst moments is never easy. Even when they know you’re photographing them there’s a level of discomfort when you point a camera at a grieving person.

Today marked four years since the Feb. 14 Shootings at Northern Illinois University and a memorial wreath ceremony was held.

As a photographer I always struggle with these photos. When is too much? Am I getting too close? Am I snapping off too many frames?

I always know though that I’m not taking pictures to catch people at their worst but to tell the story. I’m a firm believer that a photographer can change the world with their photographs. While I can’t change what happened at NIU in 2008, I still think photos of people grieving and celebrating the lives of the five young men and women speak louder than anything. It shows that NIU is still mourning but moving forward.

It shows the outside world that NIU is strong and resilient. That a senseless act of tragedy can’t put it down. Maybe not world changing, but inspiring. Maybe these images and others’ images of similar nature will reach at least one person.

And if only one person is inspired or has their world changed by photographs, then it is well worth it.

I realize this was deep, much deeper than I normally get on my blog, but these events typically find a way to inspire me. I always hope that comes out in my photography as well. Where people can feel the photograph rather than just look at it.

I think I accomplished that here today with these photos and the other frames not featured.

Forward, Together Forward — 2.14.08

© 2012 Jerry Burnes/Northern Star

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