CULTURE & ARTS
04/07/2017 09:04 am ET Updated Apr 18, 2017

101 Portraits Tell The Stories Of People Who Survived Gun Violence In America

Photographer Kathy Shorr sees her portrait series as a non-partisan foil to the polarizing shouting matches on the subject of gun violence.
KATHY SHORR

One day while picking up her daughters from daycare, Shirley Justice was attacked by her ex-husband. She was shot 14 times, and she survived.

Since 2013, photographer Kathy Shorr has chronicled people like Justice, survivors of gun violence in America. In her portrait, Justice stands near a window wearing a bra, revealing the scars writ across her chest and stomach. The expression on her face reads as mournful, even incredulous, yet at peace. 

“Fourteen bullets entered my body that day,” Justice recalled in her interview with Shorr. “Fourteen bullets that ripped through every major organ and artery. Fourteen chances to die. ‘I will live for you,’ I promised my girls as I lay on the ground watching my ex-husband flee the scene.” 

Shorr’s photo book, simply titled Shot, features 101 portraits accompanied by interviews and descriptions of her subjects, all of whom survived instances of gun violence in America. Shorr first began thinking about the project after she and her daughter were held up at gunpoint during a home invasion.

Neither Shorr nor her daughter were physically injured during the encounter, but the experience and the subsequent emotional trauma left the artist agonizing over the thousands of Americans each year whose lives are irreparably changed by virtue of a loaded gun. 

"Ambushed by her ex-husband, <strong>Shirley </strong>was shot as she got her daughters from nursery school. Her ex-husband u
Kathy Shorr
"Ambushed by her ex-husband, Shirley was shot as she got her daughters from nursery school. Her ex-husband used two guns and struck her 14 times. The former military man was released on $25,000 bail." (Indianapolis, Indiana, 2014.)

According to CNN in 2016, there are more mass shootings in the U.S. than in any other country in the world. That same year, The New York Times reported that gun homicides are a common cause of death in America, killing about as many people as car crashes. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that between 2001 and 2014 alone, 440,095 people died at the hands of a firearm on U.S. soil.

“People don’t always think about the survivors,” Shorr told The Huffington Post. “Gun violence survivors are here and have a voice, a very important voice. They have experienced something that is kind of indescribable to someone that hasn’t experienced it.”

To begin her project, Shorr reached out to a man named Antonius, whose story she’d learned while listening to the NY1 news. She approached him on Facebook, they emailed back and forth and eventually met in person. After talking through the details, Shorr and Antonius returned to the Brooklyn street corner where he had been shot only seven weeks prior. Antonius took a Xanax to stay calm. 

The shoot, according to Shorr, was overwhelmingly positive. People from the community came by to shake Antonius’ hand. He pulled up his shirt and Shorr photographed his scar. Antonius told the photographer how cathartic it was to return to the site and take back the space. “At that point I realized this was a project I could really do,” Shorr said.

“I always saw it as a book,” she continued. “I just felt that once I started there was no turning back. Especially once I started talking to people and learning their stories, I felt an incredible amount of responsibility to complete the project.”

"Eight-year-old <strong>Taniya </strong>was shot by another third-grader in their classroom. The boy had found the gun in his
Kathy Shorr
"Eight-year-old Taniya was shot by another third-grader in their classroom. The boy had found the gun in his home and brought it to school." (Augusta, Georgia, 2015.)

Shorr’s subjects adhere to no single age, gender, ethnicity, class or occupation. Their stories are equally as far-ranging. There is 8-year-old Taniya, accidentally shot by a fellow third grader who brought his father’s gun to school, and Greg, a Georgia-based police sergeant shot by a drug dealer during a bust. There are victims of robberies, domestic abuse, hate crimes and stray bullets. The physical impact of the violence manifests in wheelchairs, prosthetic aids, purple contusions or scars of gauzy flesh. The emotional impact the viewer can only attempt to imagine. 

Shorr describes her style as part street photography, part documentary portraiture. Some images zoom in on the physical residue of where bullet met flesh, while others are more straightforward portraits, focusing more on the person than the tragedy that shattered their sense of normalcy. Many photos were captured at the location where each subject was wounded, which the artist described as a way of saying, “You didn’t get me, I’m here.”

“The project was always meant to bring a face to an abstract situation,” Shorr said. “To show how gun violence affects everyone, not only certain groups of people. Anyone can be shot, anywhere. Many of the people in the project are gun owners themselves; one is even a member of the NRA.”

Shorr hopes her portrait series serves as a non-partisan foil to the polarizing shouting matches on the subject of gun violence. “It’s time to start talking about these issues so we can grow and learn from each other,” Shorr said. “When people can see both sides of an issue, and both sides have valid points, we can talk to each other rather than at each other. It’s not a black and white issue.”

"During the Fort Hood shootings,&nbsp;<strong>Dayna </strong>was wounded by a crazed psychiatrist who killed 14 people and in
Kathy Shorr
"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 hiding behind a table." (Fort Hood, Texas, 2009.)
<strong>"Shanessa&nbsp;</strong>was shot by her sister&rsquo;s boyfriend. A year later, she was shot again, in the face and h
Kathy Shorr
"Shanessa was shot by her sister’s boyfriend. A year later, she was shot again, in the face and hand; this time it was by his friends who wanted to stop her from testifying against him." (Newport News, Virginia, 2014 and 2015.)
"Separated from her military husband, <strong>Kate</strong>&nbsp;was ambushed as she returned home. Her husband chased her to
Kathy Shorr
"Separated from her military husband, Kate was ambushed as she returned home. Her husband chased her to the door and began firing as Ranta and her father tried to close it. They were both shot. Her young child, who was also there, escaped physical injury." (Coral Springs, Florida, 2012.)
<strong>"Joe </strong>has been shot in three separate incidents: twice while driving his bus and once while standing on a str
Kathy Shorr
"Joe has been shot in three separate incidents: twice while driving his bus and once while standing on a street corner talking to a friend. His son was killed by gun violence." (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1987, 1984 and 1982.)
"Seventeen-year-old <strong>Chloe </strong>was talking with friends on the street when a stray bullet hit her in the head." (
Kathy Shorr
"Seventeen-year-old Chloe was talking with friends on the street when a stray bullet hit her in the head." (Kansas City, Missouri, 2013.)
<strong>"Ally </strong>was visiting a friend when she was shot in the head. Unaware it was loaded, her friend was fooling aro
Kathy Shorr
"Ally was visiting a friend when she was shot in the head. Unaware it was loaded, her friend was fooling around with a gun that her father had left on the table when it went off." (Lee’s Summit, Missouri, 2012.)
"Blues singer and activist <strong>Courtney</strong>&nbsp;was shot in the face and right arm by her boyfriend. He received fo
Kathy Shorr
"Blues singer and activist Courtney was shot in the face and right arm by her boyfriend. He received four years for her attempted murder and seven years for firing at a police officer who had arrived on the scene. He is eligible for unconditional parole in 2019." (Arcata, California, 2010.)
"After leaving her shift at a Holiday Inn around 11:00 pm, <strong>Cori</strong>&nbsp;got in her car to drive home. Headed fo
Kathy Shorr
"After leaving her shift at a Holiday Inn around 11:00 pm, Cori got in her car to drive home. Headed for the freeway, she stopped at a red light. In the next second Romero was shot in the neck. The shooter then drove off." (Fort Collins, Colorado 2015.)
"During his freshman year at the University of Washington, <strong>Scott </strong>worked part-time in a record store. Three r
Kathy Shorr
"During his freshman year at the University of Washington, Scott worked part-time in a record store. Three robbers entered the store and one of them shouted something. As he turned to the man, the thief fired, hitting him in the abdomen. He is now the Episcopal Bishop of Utah."
"While working a drug bust, police sergeant <strong>Greg </strong>was shot in the face by the drug dealer." (Augusta, Georgia
Kathy Shorr
"While working a drug bust, police sergeant Greg was shot in the face by the drug dealer." (Augusta, Georgia, 2004.)

Kathy Shorr’s Shot: 101 Survivors of Gun Violence in America is available now. On Thursday, April 13, Shorr will join Lyle Rexer for a discussion and book signing at Brooklyn’s Powerhouse Books. All captions were provided by the artist.

Correction: An earlier edition of this article misstated the location where Courtney Weaver was shot, due to an error in the book’s caption. 

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