Without camera, photographer sees eyes of dying child

There are so many shootings and killings these days, it’s hard to pay much attention to them anymore. Another person in the street, another arrest, another day.

We are not challenged anywhere near enough by journalists to remember that there are more victims of this violence than the ones who die. There’s the person who has to look into the eyes of a dying kid, too.

The Chicago Sun-Times has been unwavering in its promise to treat every homicide in the city as something other than a rote, run-of-the-mill story.

Recently, Vincent Johnson, who makes his living taking pictures for the news industry, was the person kneeling on a street in the rain, stroking the hand of a dying 17-year-old.

The SUV’s spotlight shone down the block through a light rain as they approached. I looked back at the teen and hoped he’d pull through, although I knew just by looking at him that he was no longer alive.

He was motionless with his big eyes staring up into the rain.

As a professional photographer and photojournalist, I am used to being ready to document news at the drop of a hat. I’ve been to a few crime scenes over the years, and even put myself at risk to photograph a fire in the apartment next door.

When I first walked out the door, a part of me thought about going back inside and getting my camera. But I remembered what a great teacher once told me, “You’re a human first and a photojournalist second.”

I wrestled with the idea of taking photos right after police and paramedics arrived, but I it didn’t feel right. It wasn’t until the police tape was set and a blanket placed over the teen that the scene began to look like the crime scenes I was used to.

Except this time I had a vantage point from my front door.

I could say I took a few photos because that is what I do, but really I took them because I needed to be able to put a lens between me and the reality at all of our front doors.

(h/t: Luke Taylor)