I was inspired to start United States of Ammunition when a box of bullets was mistakenly delivered to my address near Seattle
by Maureen Cain.
The first photograph I took for my United States of Ammunition project was in Marysville, Washington at Marysville Pilchuck High School where a 15-year-old boy shot five students, killing four. The shooter texted his friends and cousins, inviting them to sit with him in the cafeteria for lunch, where he methodically shot them with his father's handgun before killing himself. Other students reported that the boy was angry because a girl he liked wouldn't go out with him.
Six months after the shooting, the boy's father was arrested for the illegal purchase of firearms, including the one his son used in the school shooting. The father lied on his background check at a local hunting store and stated there were no firearm restrictions against him, when in fact he had been barred from owning guns after he threatened and assaulted his girlfriend. He was later sentenced to two years in prison.
When I brought my camera and bullet casings to Marysville, I had no idea that I would end up taking more than 100 images at sites of shootings across the United States or that I would spend the next four years becoming an expert on American gun violence. Two weeks before taking the Marysville picture, I had mistakenly received a box of 1000 rounds of ammunition at my address outside of Seattle. This surprise delivery inspired me to paint bullet casings and photograph them at sites of shootings. While I do have a collection of images from sites of mass shootings and school shootings, most of my pictures are from sites of everyday shootings that happen in every community in every state. Every day.
The second United States of Ammunition photo I took was in Yakima, Washington during a road trip from Seattle to Tucson, Arizona. I took this picture in the parking lot of a school where a man was shot and killed by a 17-year-old boy. It was so sunny and hot the day I took this picture that the casings were too hot to pick up with bare hands.
For the picture I took a few years later at Kurt Cobain's house in Seattle, I wrapped bullet casings with a copy of his now-famous suicide note. There's a bench in the park next door to his house where fans sit and leave treasures like cigarettes and booze. The day I took this photograph there was also a spent shotgun shell left by a mourning fan.
In another park, this time in Spokane, Washington, I photographed the site where a group of boys brought guns for a fight that started on social media. I'm not sure of the outcome of this shooting or even the exact date that it occurred, but when I was at the park, setting up bullet casings on cheerful playground equipment, I was struck by the sad absurdity of children bringing guns to a place set aside for the simple joy of playing outside.
I now have more than 3000 spent bullet casings that I painted using supplies from a funky little art shop in Seattle that has a hundred colors of spray paint. I store the casings in ammunition boxes that, as it turns out, I purchased from the same hunting supply store where the father of the Marysville school shooter illegally purchased his weapons, including the one used in the 2014 school shooting.
Artist & Speaker
Gun violence data from Gun Violence Archive.
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