Awardee: Kevin Cook – 2D visual arts – Round 2 Awardee
I am a proud Philadelphian. I grew up in Mayfair, a working-class neighborhood in Northeast Philly. As a documentary photographer it feels natural to turn my camera on my city. I am passionate to work on long-form fine art documentary photography projects that explore interesting, underreported neighborhoods and social issues in my hometown.
In 2021, Philly is on pace to surpass 600 shooting deaths. This would be the city’s worst year ever and 101 more than 2020. Photographing Philadelphia’s gun violence epidemic is an important step in creating necessary dialogue and eliciting change. A picture is a moment in time that cannot be denied.
Ultimately, this project cannot be made possible without collaboration with those who have been physically, mentally or emotionally affected by gun violence. My pictures can serve a vital role in giving people a visual microphone to tell their stories. So far, I have photographed three components of Philly’s gun violence crisis. 1) Police activity at gun violence crime scenes, 2) People who have been physically affected by gun violence and 3) Friends and family members who have lost loved ones. The result will be an expansive series of portraits, candids and abstracts. By giving me access to their lives, I have the chance to share their stories with others. It would be incredibly meaningful to me and my collaborators to continue my project and build a long-term visual journalism reporting piece on Philadelphia’s gun violence crisis.
At several candlelight vigils and funerals I have attended I have been thanked for photographing. Because of the large quantity of gun violence deaths, it is impossible for the news to dedicate proper coverage to each story. I am amazed by the level of support I receive. I take the opportunity to photograph moments like this very seriously.
Photography is a wonderful experience that requires collaboration between the image maker, and the people being photographed. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity because the people being photographed are giving me much more than I can give back to them. In his book, Why People Photograph, Robert Adams said: “At our best and most fortunate we make pictures because of what stands in front of the camera, to honor what is greater and more interesting than we are. We never accomplish this perfectly, though in return we are given something perfect -a sense of inclusion. Our subject thus redefines us and is part of the biography by which we want to be known.” This quote has always stuck with me.
Once completed, I hope large scale, poster size prints of my photographs can be placed at various places in the city. When people view photographs, they also absorb data and information within them. By displaying images publicly Philadelphian’s will be forced to examine complex images about their city. Additionally, if police officials, government leaders and community members have access to the pictures they can disseminate them to reach a larger audience.