They have become dots on a demographer's map: black boys and men gunned down on the streets of Compton and Inglewood and Hyde Park. There are three on one block, six on another. More than 400 murders, on average, are added each year. The homicide rate in South Los Angeles is double that of Bogota, Colombia. But no one pays much attention. Not the neighborhood that falls silent. Not the city institutions that turn numb.
Brian Vander Brug, a staff photographer for the Los Angeles Times, wants us to look inside the dots. He wants us to follow the bullets as they pass through the dead and strike the living.
In photo after photo in the series "Mortal Wounds," Vander Brug captures the faces of murder -- those shot, those left behind -- in a way that shatters complacency. Like all great photographers, he gives us sight and sound. South Los Angeles -- its dots -- becomes real. We may still turn around, but not before seeing lives forever bent by violence.
-- adapted from the award entry letter for Ted Jackson
|King Drew Medical Center doctor Moises Vargas, left, pulls out a weapon from the pants of 33-year-old John Smith as they remove his clothing to treat him for a gunshot wound early on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2002. Doctors Sameer Bakhda, Edgar Enriquez and Marcos Palafox, from left, work to maintain life support but could not revive Smith.
|Ellen Atwood, 26, kisses the face of her common-law husband John Smith at King Drew Medical Center in the hospital's morgue early on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2002 after the 33-year-old man was shot in the head by an alleged gang member in South Los Angeles.
|Monica Mallet peers through a sheer curtain in her parent's living room where, in 1998, bullets from a drive-by shooting pierced the front window of the family's Inglewood home as well as her brother Kermit, who died as a result of the wounds he suffered. The window glass was repaired but the hole in the curtain and the Mallets' lives have not.
|Chet Johnson, 22, bottom, and family friend William Wilford, 16, sit on Patricia Blanchard's front porch on Aug. 7, 2003, under a portrait of Chet's uncle, Kevin Blanchard, on the anniversary of his murder.
Brenda Thurman, right, screams "Is my brother dead? Is he really dead?," as Los Angeles County Sheriff's detectives Dave Castillo, left, and Tom Harris, right, tell her of her brother Perry Thurman's fate. Perry Thurman was murdered on October 2002 in Los Angeles.
Says Harris: ''You deal with it on every case. You try to be as truthful as you can. We can't tell them the details. We tell them 'We would love to tell you.' You know they are dependent on you. You want to try to do everything you can.''
Photos copyright 2003 Los Angeles Times. Reprinted with permission.
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