Altar of Swans ( 2013 - ) is an ongoing image and text based work that looks at the aesthetics of tragedy in the contemporary American landscape. It approaches the subject through archival and original works, focusing on the physical and psychological impact of mass shootings in schools, and their representation in the public space.
"I don't like seeing my scars, though I have to every day. I am at a point now where I can see them but not relive or remember the experience automatically which, as you might imagine, is a great relief. However, that doesn't mean that I don't occasional find myself staring, frozen, at them."
- anonymous (student)
"In the late 90’s, I was a photo editor covering national news when the school shootings became a regular tragic phenomenon. It started with Padukah, Ky and then there was Jonesboro, and the boy in Oregon who started by killing his parents before setting out on a shooting spree at the High School. From a breaking news perspective, it was incredibly competitive with bidding wars for exclusive pictures. Sadly — now - my memory is more about chasing pictures of bloody kids than the horror of the event. On the morning of Columbine, I went to get a sandwich at lunch, and by the time I returned 20 minutes later, CNN had a constant stream of breaking news and all the pictures had been bought up. I remember hearing that two photographers nearly got into a fist fight in a photography studio in Littleton trying to recoup the classroom pictures of the two shooters. Isn’t’ that horrible?”
- Anonymous, Photo Editor
"Somewhere in the middle of all this I lost being pastor of the church. Part of it was the energy of what those deaths did to my own head. And when you speak publicly to NBC, or CBS, or Larry King, over television, you don't want to embarrass God, or the church, or yourself, by saying something stupid, or can be interpreted in different ways. So you’re constantly double thinking yourself, you know? That was my cross to bear at that time.
Part of it was, I was weak. I didn't know where to go the following year. I mean I didn’t know where to lead. I was 60 years old, I don’t know, what do I do? And Columbine was such a high and a low at the same time. It was hard finding, a middle? My wife was a rock through it. My secretary was a rock. Privately, I was exhausted.
I went to a therapist who said, you have PTSD. Naaahhh, I’ve been the chaplain of a big city hospital, I don’t have PTSD. He’s got PTSD… Naaahhh. I didn’t know how to recognize it. So Columbine was a test, for me. I lost my job, had to sell my house, we had to move. But in my own life I learned, that no matter how dark it gets, God raises up, and I have been in dark places. Ongoing success becomes an enemy, because you forget your center. Pain brings you back to your center. Pain is a gift."
- Pastor Don Marxhausen who gave the small memorial service for Columbine gunman Dylan Klebold