Photojournalism: Emotion In Hand

Contrary to the alarmingly-accepted belief that news-people have little-to-no feelings, there are many moments where the photojournalist behind the camera–and also the photo editor–are reminded that we are simply documenting humanity… and–during that process–we are confronted with all the various emotions that go with being human.

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Fear, anger, loss, hope, horror, elation, panic… not even a seasoned photojournalist is completely enured to it, and he wrestles emotions while adjusting F-stops, composure and shutter speed.

However, nothing more invokes human feeling like taking & viewing images from the periphery of a quadruple homicide… indeed, the worst such crime to hit in Sacramento in 17 years.

(S) Quadruple Homicide Sacramento 3-2017 (14 of 3)

Photojournalist Steven Styles snapped these images outside police lines, soberly standing with neighbors, passers-by and community leaders as they watched officers and CSI quietly don plastic hazard suits and masks.

(S) Unity Rally & Forum Sacramento SB54 3-28-2017 (13 of 1)-2

What little information was shared among those present still included the awful fact that a mother and her children had met an untimely end. One young lady walked up the sidewalk from a neighboring house with her mother; when the pair saw which house the police were going into, the girl suddenly realized why her school-friend, Mia Vasquez (14), hadn’t been in class that day.

(S) Quadruple Homicide Sacramento 3-2017 (16 of 3)

Her grief had a profound effect on our photojournalist, even from a distance; as he took the image, he thought of his own daughters and how such a tragedy would affect them. The girl ran off in tears and many in the crowd felt a little of her pain.

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The scene within the house affected even those routinely exposed to the aftermath of homicide; one image appears to catch a police officer offering his fellow an ear of sympathy:

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Later, at a candlelight vigil, the horrible crime had a visible effect on Mayor Steinberg and Councilman Guerra as they respectfully stood with neighbors and community leaders, holding lit candles to remember the four lives lost in the house behind the yellow police tape.

(S) Quadruple Homicide Sacramento 3-2017 (20 of 1)

Even though it’s a photojournalists’ job to see a moment and capture it, emotions play a large part in deciding whether or not to take an image. In this case, it was acceptable to do so. Through this photographer’s lens, the victims were not merely bodies being photographed for necessary criminal investigation purposes, but their memory was being recorded in the faces around the scene, itself, in the loss apparent in the eyes of each neighbor and relative… and in the slender, invisible thread of humanity wound around every observer, binding together strangers, pedestrians, media and officers alike.

Even in processing the images I felt the full gambit of emotions present, noting each sad expression, each sloped shoulder, each bent head, each questioning look from a child and each media figure–holding a camera–with their face harboring an unspoken question: “Should I take this picture?”

We document human moments–not in spite of emotion–but with it firmly in hand; that, is photojournalism.

Article by L. R. Styles. Photographer: Steven Styles/ Belator Media

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