Second day into February started with a breaking news story I had never covered before. My coworker Zahra and I went to a triple homicide early Saturday morning. It had to be the coldest night of that month. It was about one in the morning. It was so quiet in the neighborhood. I took as many photos as I could. I took photos of officers and detectives working the scene as well as areas where light caught my eye. We decided to wait it out until one of the officers could confirm what had happened. We knew it wasn’t going to be a good outcome regardless.
Then the family showed up. And I’m not talking about a few individuals, there were cars full of people wanting answers. We all waited for several hours. It wasn’t until a man and woman crossed police tape toward the house that everyone got out of their cars too. So did we.
The neighborhood wasn’t quiet anymore.
What took place shortly after I will never forget. It was an eye-opening moment for me as a photojournalist. To get to the point, I froze.
I froze when the detective told the family that three of their loved ones had been shot dead. Immediately a group of women dropped to the ground screaming. One woman threw a trash can near my direction as I fumbled to take the shot. It was chaos. I didn’t know what to do or when to cross the line. Part of me didn’t want to photograph their pain. The other part of me needed to do my job. I was torn. It was the hardest thing I’ve had to do here so far.
Once Zahra and I got the information we needed we went to a 24-hour diner. We were quiet for the majority of the time. I ordered blueberry pancakes and bacon. She ordered a cheeseburger.
It was a long night.
We had to cover polar plunge in a few hours. Welcome to the life of journalists.
I don’t think covering breaking news where the victim’s family is involved will ever get easier. I think it’s important to remember to go with your gut and to always move and photograph in a way that shows respect and empathy while getting the images you need to do your job. Depending on the situation, I don’t think it’s ever worth getting the shot at the expense of re-traumatizing a person in the worst moment in their life. Obviously I have a lot to learn yet on this topic.
Here are my favorite photos from the month.
This month I really pushed myself to improve my portraiture, something I really enjoy and have made it a point to get better at while I’m here in Flint. One assignment in particular set it off for me as a turning point in how I look for light and work my subject to make the best portrait possible. Corrections officer Elwanda Ray was the perfect person to help boost my confidence during the portrait session. She was so patient and just all around a wonderful person to get to know while I was photographing her.
And then the flooding happened. The first image is so far my favorite photo I have made thus far at the Flint Journal.
And now the rest of the month.