Kathy Shorr: SHOT: Survivors of Gun Violence in America

By Stephanie Seguino

During the Fort Hood shootings Dayna was wounded by a crazed psychiatrist who killed 14 people and injured 32 in the massacre. An Army sergeant and Purple Heart recipient, she was shot three times when the gunman found her crouched behind a table. Fort Hood, Texas, 2009. © Kathy Shorr. Courtesy of the artist.

By Stephanie Seguino

We can’t talk about guns in America — not very easily. Not without shouting, slamming doors, walking out on each other, and unraveling our relationships.

But it does not mean we should give up. What then is the way forward?

Kathy Shorr, in her photographic series, SHOT, shows us a way. In a project that spanned more than two years, Shorr photographed a panoply of survivors of gun violence that span class, race, geographic, and gender boundaries. The 101 subjects in the series are people like you and me. They are not different. They are not other. And that is the power of this work.

Despite the tendency for the topic of gun violence to polarize us, Shorr’s work does not blame. Her images instead invite viewers to create an understanding of gun violence as a palpable, physical event, not an abstract thought.

Shorr says, “I want people to see what it is like to be shot and to understand that it can happen to any of us, anywhere.”

Shorr’s subjects agreed to be photographed in the same location in which they were shot — in the Walmart parking lot, in their own homes, in their cars, walking through Times Square. I asked her if her subjects were re-traumatized by returning to this place. Shorr said in fact it was often cathartic and empowering to return to the site of the event.

Shorr, a New Yorker born in Brooklyn and now living in Manhattan, knows intimately the impact of gun violence. During a home invasion years ago, robbers pointed a gun at her and her daughter. Though they were unharmed in the robbery, Shorr says “I knew what it felt like to have someone have the power to control your destiny and possibly the destiny of someone you loved. The emotional impact of a gun pointed at you is a feeling that stays with you.”

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