This is what I do – Part 5

Not Doing What I Want To Do

Shooting death on the streets of Chicago
Chicago, 6/30/14–A 17 year old boy was shot and killed in the street on the 600 block of east 50th place Sunday night during the height of the storm. He clung to the last bit of life partially submerged in the gutter of the flooded one way street. | Vincent D. Johnson

As I’ve mentioned before, when things happen I want to document them visually. However sometimes life calls us to not do the thing we feel compelled to do.

On a rainy night in the summer of 2014, I didn’t want to walk out my front door to see someone shot in the street. Being the first person on the scene, I also had to tell myself I didn’t want to take a photo. I needed to want to help.

In an earlier post I mentioned how as photojournalists we like to arrive at a scene before the police, or fire department, that’s kind of true as long as you’re not part of the scene. My wife and I tried to do what we could and I held this young man’s hand as he died in the street. It’s hard to explain how surreal that evening was, but once the police & paramedics arrived and I helped them make sense of what happened. I needed to put a little distance between myself and the situation. Maybe to help me cope, or maybe because this is what I do. A year later and I’m still unsure.

You can read a complete story I wrote about that night that was a front page story in the Chicago Sun-Times. His name was Michael Patton.


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