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Photographers must bear witness to tragedy

I always tell people how fun my job is and I enjoy that it’s different every day.

But in the different, sometimes it’s not something so fun. In addition to all the sporting events, all the giggling children’s events and all the uplifting stories, there are tragic events.

I’m there photographing those stories to bring to our readers. I don’t see covering these events as fun, but it’s news and I’m a photojournalist. My commitment to my job involves standing at crash scenes, watching families’ possessions in flames and witnessing the investigations of accidents that leave families mourning.

My emotions were wearing on me after photographing some recent events. With a heavy heart I walked into a workshop last weekend with two photographers from New York City who captured some of the most iconic images from Sept. 11. For David Handschuh, he said that was the day he stopped chasing news.

“We’re first responders,” he mentioned. We may stand behind the emergency personnel, but we bear witness to a lot of things that I hope many people do not have to. In the most respectful way we can, we document that tragedy so the world may know.

Handschuh witnessed the first World Trade Center tower coming down, and though he was able to protect and save his cameras, he was badly injured, physically and mentally. He paid tribute to his co-workers, “men and women who took pictures of the day, weeks, months afterward, often abandoning their desire for emotional health to keep telling and reporting the truth.”

The truth — that’s what we’re there to show viewers. People want to see what has happened. Some of the most historic events across the world have been captured and summed into single photographs.

Sometimes words can’t paint the picture strongly enough. Though the photograph may be too strong, that’s what the public wants to see.

There are photos we don’t take, or ones that we do, but are never shared. Those images sit hidden in digital files on our computers. Those images many don’t care to see, but being there, at someone’s tragic story, is ingrained in our mind. Photographers are visual people, and sometimes those visions linger longer than we’d like.

We are not there to point fingers and cause blame. We are not there to disrespect the situation. We are there to show all those who work their best to help and be heroes . We are there in hope that through photographs and sharing the truth, others will learn a lesson.

We are there to capture history in whatever form it comes.

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