Inhaling precious breaths with a hole in his chest, a young University of New Mexico baseball player, Jackson Weller, lay on the street bleeding. He was shot to death after a night out with friends.
Two weeks prior a beloved postal worker, Jose Hernandez, was delivering on an Albuquerque route when a 17-year-old allegedly shot him following an altercation.
Elsewhere in the city, the mother of two New Mexico state police officers was killed in front of her home.
In response, Albuquerque city councillors announced that they would be resurrecting the “Party Patrol” – a failed strategy that was criticized for mainly targeting targeted teen drinking.
It’s not clear how this could ever be considered an appropriate remedy when New Mexico has worst high school graduation rate in the US and an alarming murder rate that saw 114 people shot in 112 days in 2019. Across Albuquerque, one can shop for assault weapons or Smith & Wesson .44 magnums – this is, after all, the state once frequented by Billy the Kid.
Yet in the wake of recent gun violence, forgotten survivors of this new Wild West serve as constant reminders of resilience.
The people in my photos describe these events as nothing out of the ordinary for a city in the new Wild West, a place where young New Mexicans arm themselves in defense of rising homicides. At best, New Mexico serves as a microcosm for the lax gun control laws of an America memorializing mass shootings every other week.
Through visual art, I demonstrate faces of persistence, some of which are no longer on this Earth. Speaking as someone nearly killed twice by firearms in New Mexico, I understand the message my artwork carries in a life that seems to be on borrowed time.
I often hear large caliber gunfire before going to sleep, contemplating the individual scenarios producing every round: family disputes born out of low-income living, deteriorating public schools and relentless opioid abuse. Perhaps a statement from an Albuquerque teenager I recently photographed can explain it better: “I don’t feel nervousness because I have nothing to lose. I’ve been ready to die since day one.”