I just returned home after two weeks of traveling through Northern California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho and Utah. Though it feels good to sleep in my own bed after the long days of shooting and tedious nights of driving through the vast American west, I feel a bit deflated as I open my computer and return to work.
Along my journey, I've been reminded over and over just how good and polite and friendly Americans are. I've been welcomed by sawmill workers, clam diggers, pot growers, baristas, bartenders, farmers, urban hipsters and even a surprisingly friendly rodeo announcer. As much as I love photographing the people of America, the sum of all these connections is more powerful still. To photograph America is to understand that we're indeed one people with common values and a spirit of caring for each other.
In no small part is the purpose of my Neighbors portrait project to highlight our shared purpose and values and, through my broad range of portraits, to remind all Americans of the empathy that we all carry for one another.
When I saw the headline about the shooting in Orlando, my heart sank. I couldn't read the story nor watch the news reports that flashed in the restaurant TVs. To be so immersed in a project to unite Americans and then see this horrific act against my countrymen is more than I am willing or even able to process. I'm both saddened and discouraged.
Compounding the situation is when I open Facebook or read the online newspapers and all I see is the nattering of commentators, both amateur and professional, going back and forth on what to do and who is right and who is wrong. The incessant arguments and attacks fall painfully on already open emotional wounds. Again, it's more than I can process.
So, for the time being, I'm staying away from social media and limiting my intake of the news. Instead, I'm framing my upcoming San Diego and Memphis shows and planning my next, even longer road trip. Despite the fact that at moments like this it feels pointless, I'll keep shooting and posting and displaying images that, hopefully, in some small way, bring us together.