Photographer and teacher Kathy Shorr never in a million years imagined herself staring down the barrel of a gun, but a decade ago that's exactly where she and her then 16-month-old baby found themselves when two men dressed as mailman robbed them at gunpoint inside their New York apartment.
Shorr and her baby were fortunately unharmed but the traumatic event left an indelible imprint on her. She tells Konbini:
"The experience of having a gun pointed at you and that moment and the fear that someone can just decide to end your or the ones you love the most lives is something that you’ll never forget."
The impact of surviving this traumatic home invasion had Shorr reflecting on other survivors who weren't as lucky as she was that fateful day.
Going beyond abstract notion of gun violence
As a photography teacher in New York's public schools, Shorr often witnessed many of her students memorializing family and friends killed by gun violence with pictures of them hanging around their neck.
"I started to wonder – does anybody think about the survivors? People think you’re lucky you are alive so we don’t have to think about you anymore, but these survivors have physical and emotional injuries that can be extremely damaging."
From 2013 to 2015, Shorr traveled 100,000 miles cross country to photograph survivors of gun violence for a book of portraits, SHOT: 101 Survivors of Gun Violence in America, that takes an unflinching look at the people and the stories behind the alarming statistics.
According to nonprofit and nonpartisan research group Gun Violence Archive, in 2016 there were 15,052 deaths and 30,601 injuries caused by guns in this country. There are more mass shootings in America than in any country in the world.
Shorr believes that adding a human face to the debate over guns control would allow us to go beyond the "abstract notion of gun violence" to come to a more universal analysis of this very polarizing epidemic affecting people from all walks of life.
Proof that violence does not discriminate
The 101 survivors in the book are proof that gun violence does not discriminate. SHOT features a diverse group of men, women and children of different races, ethnicities and ages (8 to 80.)
Shorr photographed most of them at the location where they were shot to drive home the point that gun violence can and does occur anywhere.
"People get shot in average spots like their homes, busy streets, cars and shopping malls. This idea that shootings only occur in ominous places just fits in with this scenario these people were in bad place or they brought this it upon themselves is wrong."
For many, the photo shoot was the first time they had ever returned to the scene of the crime. While returning to the location where they were shot proved to be cathartic for the survivors, some were initially hesitant but ultimately they were motivated to take part in this book to help others who've lived through gun violence trauma.
"The stories are dark and sad but the people are anything but. They are incredibly positive, heroic and courageous people that inspired me. I hope they will inspire others to have an honest dialogue about guns in America."
Shorr isn't out to make a political statement with her book or imply that nobody should own guns. She acknowledges that guns are part of the culture of America.
What she hopes is for is a more rational discussion about gun safety, which she thinks can be accomplished with responsible gun owners leading the way. Shorr points out that many of the survivors are themselves gun owners.