Such is the life of an overnight photog. But when his own 74 year old mother was found bludgeoned to death in her home, Pete O'Neal felt more than a loving son's heartbreak. He felt the accumulated pain of all those thousands who'd passed through his lens over the years. Losing his mom didn't change how Pete made a living, but it did alter the way he looked at victims. No more grief stricken faces at point blank range; O'Neal now keeps a respectable distance between himself and the inconsolable.
This epiphany is just one of the reasons I admire O'Neal - a shooter I would have never even heard of had it not been for the excellent work of the Baltimore Sun. Matt Simon's article - along with a dashboard confessional video - does more to illuminate the motives of a veteran photog than most of the drivel I post here. Aside from the tragedy of losing his mother, Pete tells how he came to be interested in cameras in the first place - an anecdote that closely mirrors my own. It's enough to make any shooter question why they do this silly job, and reconsider how they 'll do it in the future. Go read the whole thing, watch the video and think of Pete O'Neal the next time you watch midnight crime footage from the inner city. I will.
A compelling addendum at b-roll.net, courtesy of Alex Lucas...
If you really haven't worked at nights for over a year, it's hard to explain how truly insane it is. You just know somebody's going to die that night, and you have to see grieving people. I thought I had a real good grip on what life was about until I did it for some time. Overnights are like a funhouse mirror set to reality after you really get to know it, it's very warping. All that time, all those murders, and I still can't explain what causes murder. No clue why a person kills. None. And it never stops. Never. There's a couple of days, and then it catches right back up to where it was in a night. And I work in Nashville. Little Nashville.