“People were following behind him, saying, ‘That’s the shooter.’ I started hearing some more gunshots. I laid on the ground, put my head behind some concrete (for protection).”
Not long after, the horror of it became apparent. One person was screaming in pain, helped by a couple of people who applied a tourniquet to his arm. Across the street, Hendren saw a group of people surrounding a body. They were stripping off his clothes trying to find the bullet wound to treat him.
Hendren was in shock and felt paralyzed for a moment.
“He (Kyle) ran right past me,” Hendren remembered. “I just have chills even talking about it right now. I think in retrospect when something really awful like that happens around you, you don’t realize how much danger you were actually in in that situation.”
The gravity of it hit once he returned home. “I was by myself, and I just remember crying my eyes out for a long time.” Hendren also said he talked out loud to Huber, apologizing to him, saying, “I wish I could have helped you; I wish I could have done something.”
Hendren, like many, struggles with guilt about taking such a picture in that moment. And it’s relatable to me, too. I have felt like Hendren many times in my career while documenting the pain of others.
I asked Hendren what he was doing for self-care. It’s a topic that was not discussed much in my career, but thankfully we’re talking more now. The impact of witnessing trauma can have a profound effect.
“I know I had to skip the Fourth of July last year with my family because I couldn’t be around loud popping sounds like that,” he said. “Things like that, they’ll still catch me a little. It sends me over the edge, and I duck around loud noises.”
I asked how he was doing. “In terms of my mental well-being, I’m good at compartmentalizing things away from everyday life. But occasionally, it’ll catch me, and it’s awfully overwhelming.”
I asked Hendren for any advice he had for someone wanting to do the kind of work he’s pursuing. He stressed the importance of a shared community.
“Knowing that you’re not alone, that you’ve been through these things with other people is therapeutic in a way.”
I couldn’t agree more. It’s important for us to recognize the need for self-care and that documenting trauma can have lasting impacts on all involved. I appreciate Hendren’s approach, and I hope more of us mirror his open and honest reflection about what we’re doing and, importantly, why we’re doing it.
Ben Hendren is a freelance photojournalist based in Atlanta. He specializes in photographing in exigent circumstances. His work has been domestically and internationally published. Hendren’s work won best in show at the 2020 Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar, and he has an image in Sir Elton John’s photography collection. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is a new NPPA member.
Ross Taylor is an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Boulder. He’s on the board of directors for NPPA and is also the chair of the quarterly multimedia contest. Website: rosstaylor.net. He has been an NPPA member since 1998.