Tuesday, May 6, 2014


Last year I photographed the memorial service for Staff Sergeant Justin Johnson, who was killed in Bagram, Afghanistan on June 18, 2013. 

The service was held at Fort Eustis and we were asked to keep our distance from the family, which is a caution I normally adhere to. I feel deeply uncomfortable meddling in other people’s lives without their express permission and invitation, which is perhaps why I’m not the most successful hard news photographer. After the service ended, I went to find the public affairs person to check on the spelling of a name of someone I photographed, and saw this adorable little boy. I made the picture and then asked if they wouldn’t mind sharing their names; Justin Johnson Jr., 3, lost his dad and Staff Sergeant Willie Foster lost a friend.

There is something about this moment— about the continuity of love even after death, and about the sweetness of a strong uniformed man giving comfort to a friend’s son. I think there should absolutely be privacy in grief (read David Woo’s account of photographing memorial services for some real insight) but I don’t regret seeing and sharing this moment.

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