The gift of being a photojournalist is the access it provides into the lives of people you would otherwise never have met.
A couple weeks ago, I took on a last-minute assignment to photograph the Second Amendment Club’s excursion to a rifle range outside of Marietta, Ohio.
Let me preface that by explaining that my parents are anti-war protesters who preach nonviolence, meaning that I have never seen, let alone held, a gun ever in my life. They even picked through our Lego sets to weed out and discard any tiny Lego guns they came across.
When the writer and I arrived, we clearly looked out of place. The whole club turned around to watch us, already wary of being featured in a story on gun violence. Knowing I had to somehow get them to trust me and feel comfortable while I photographed them, I attempted a self-deprecating joke about the situation and was met with silence and stares. So we were off to a great start!
The echoing sound of the first shot rattled me as I meekly sought out photos, unsure of where I was safe to stand and nervously fearful that I was in the way.
But this is the nature of a photojournalist. Navigating a completely foreign culture, even in our own country, is expected of us. So instead of photographing blindly, I backed off and spent some time observing the expected etiquette of the range. I then started asking wonky questions about firearms and ammunition and shooting, and the club slowly realized that this clueless girl was there to understand, not judge, them.
Soon, members were educating me on how to shoot a firearm and generously offering up their own for me to try. I fired one round from an AR-15, completely missed the target and still felt proud of myself.
I consider it a privilege that I get to meet such a wide range of people and even just for a day, have the opportunity to understand them.
And for the record, my mom saw my Instagram post from the range and tersely commented, “I want to hear more about it.” Who knows? Perhaps I'll be grounded when I get home for Thanksgiving break. Or perhaps we'll go shooting as a family.