20 Shots


‘You can get killed just for living in your American skin.”
Bruce Springsteen, ”AMERICAN SKIN (41 SHOTS) ”

Back in 1999, I wrote a commentary on the New York City Police Department’s execution of Amadou Diallo. Officers fired 41 bullets at Diallo outside his apartment when he reached for his wallet. Of course, the officers were all acquitted of all charges. Outraged by the circumstances of the case, I titled the article “41 Shots.” Bruce Springsteen composed a song with the same title. Little did we know that the future would bring hundreds of more casualties, citizens of all colors, killed by a “professional” police force. Stephon Clark, recently executed by the Sacramento police, was fired at 20 times and he only had a cell phone.

Black people, whether they have criminal intent or not, seem to immediately die while proven fiends like Dylann Roof, the white supremacist, mass-murdering thug convicted in the 2015 Charleston, South Carolina church massacre, gets the police to take him to Burger King. He got a Whopper with fries while Black people better not even eat in the presence of the police. Farfetched? Go look at the circumstances of many of the more publicized shootings and you will see a pattern. You better not:

lay down
hold objects
wear certain clothes
have a certain haircut
or breathe…

in the presence of the police. The penalty is immediate death. No due process for life and that is why America continues to be a failure as an advanced civilization. We can do better, we just don’t want to.

I may be going to Sacramento this weekend. Pray that wearing a camera doesn’t get me shot.


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A former event photographer, I became an early adopter of, advocate for, and then a digital camera addict. After half-a-million frames taken and thousands of dollars spent, I no longer stress over the camera brand or worry about the number of megapixels. I ignore the marketing of the camera manufacturers that promote technology over the eyes of the photographer. I’ve returned to simple film cameras with the understanding that one should not have to be a Ph.D. in physics to operate a camera. Photography doesn’t have to be complicated. Visualizing the moment and finding the light is more important. Just point, shoot, and preserve your memories, create your art. After 15 years of being an “unofficial” camera engineer for Nikon, Canon, Leica, Fuji, and Ricoh, I’m still on a journey of recovery. Along the way, I’ll share how I adapt to a more considered photographic practice that promotes a more contemplative way of life.