This post while sad, serves to justify what photography and video capture means to people. The man in this video is Anthony Sullivan and if nothing else he lived a hard life. He is no longer with us and I remember the last words he said to me that stuck out to me as "Thank you! you told my story in like 90 seconds...". Anthony passed away after collapsing during his work shift at his church. I wasn't even sure I was supposed to meet him until this very week. He had so much to say about everything and i only scratched the surface in the 90 second feature I did on him. I met him because I wanted to tell a story for a school project with some meaning. I figured if I could find a subject in real life that meant something more than a grade I would magically get better at my craft. I was both right and wrong because I had not yet realized how to open myself up to the person I was covering as well as dig for deeper meaning in the story I set out to tell. He had way more to say than I could ever fit into 90 seconds but I let him ease his way into sharing the joy and pain in his heart. My intention was to care about someone and tell a story I knew to be real no matter what grade I received.
Well we made that story and presented to my class and instructors, the room felt the power, they felt what i was trying to do. The technical aspects and the art were not of mainstream media quality but the story and the heart was there in spades. This was my goal as a part of a way to prove to myself that I belonged in the room with my classmates. I was trying to defuse my self doubt. I wanted to be the only one that could make a story happen in the amount of time allotted and in this particular neighborhood.
I had never met Anthony Sullivan. Anthony lived three or four minutes from me and had never heard of me. I was trying to tell a story about gang violence in October and I was introduced to Sullivan by his pastor. He was passionate about the subject because his son had been murdered in an alley by a familiar face. One of his son's childhood friends took his life with a knife. During the interview Sullivan pulled the kid up on Facebook and scrolled through his pictures. We connected and rode around the city looking at makeshift memorials honoring the fallen. Anthony took me to the exact spot his son fell and stood there will I made what could have been his last portrait. I got emotional because I tried to imagine myself in his shoes and I realized I had no reference point. I knew how powerful this moment was but I had no idea how to wrap my mind around it in a real way. We stayed together until sundown when I dropped him off in front of his home. I came out and asked him, "what story do you want to tell?" I told him I was going to finish my story on Violence and he would be my next story. "what story do you want to tell" Anthony gave me his number and then spoke about what he would have done if his son had been killed this way ten even five years earlier. Sullivan was icy not bragging not proud of his actions while he spoke but speaking deliberately about his younger days and his turn in the same system I was covering. He told me what the people around him thought he was going to do. Anthony was proud that he had turned a corner in his life and chose this of all times to be a better man. I looked over from the drivers seat and said in a low voice you want to tell a story about forgiveness. Anthony looked at me and said "I don't know how but yea."
The last few weeks the pastor of his church had been preaching on forgiveness and how it was more of a selfish act than people think. He sat in bible study and listened about how forgiveness is self serving and it releases both him and the trespasser at the same time.
Sullivan told me he wanted to forgive the people that killed his son. He didn't know how but he was working on it maybe even until the day he died less than six months after we met for the first time.
Anthony got a chance that a lot of us don't get. I recorded his thoughts and feelings and took them away and arranged them in an order that got to the essence of what he was trying to tell everyone he dealt with. It takes less than 3 minutes to meet the man that Anthony wanted the world to remember.
Anthony Sullivan thank you for teaching me about my camera in a way no textbook can. My humble gift to your family will be every word and image I collected in our short time together. Rest knowing they will be able to hear and therefore feel your voice when they need it most good sir.
Rest in Peace Anthony