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On March 22, 2021, a gunman entered the King Soopers on Table Mesa Drive in Boulder and opened fire, leaving 10 dead and one injured. In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, Ross Taylor, a professor of journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder, turned to his camera and documented the tragedy in an effort to honor and commemorate the lives lost, as well as the people who were left to pick up the pieces.
Specifically, after the shooting occurred, Taylor says that he felt called to capture the events occurring outside the store in the days and weeks that followed. “I felt the need to be there, but as the week went on, it wasn’t enough,” he says “After that first week [following the shooting], I began to think, Is there something more to be done?”
Taylor ultimately decided to create Still Strong, an exhibit showing at the Museum of Boulder from February 18 to April 10. It includes 70 portraits of Boulder community members that were taken outside the King Soopers on Table Mesa Drive in the aftermath of the tragedy. Taylor focused the project mainly on shots of people who were directly involved in the shooting, such as King Soopers employees, shoppers that day, and local mental health professionals who helped victims. The title, Still Strong, is a nod to the hashtag #BoulderStrong, which was launched by the city shortly after the shooting last year.
“When people experience trauma, they oftentimes may feel alone or disconnected,” Taylor says. “By seeing and hearing others who are experiencing similar things, it sort of validates what they went through.”
Taylor also views the project as a collaboration between himself and the subjects. He says both parties typically experienced a powerful emotional response while documenting a fragile time in their community. For example, Taylor took pictures of Louis Saxton, a 19-year-old cellist and sophomore at CU Boulder, while the young musician played his cello outside of the store for 10 consecutive days following the tragedy to pay homage to the 10 lives lost. He remembers it as a moment of “unexpected beauty” in the midst of all the grief and mourning.
The exhibit will also feature an element spotlighting photos and videos submitted from other community members, including ones of flowers and stuffed animals left outside a memorial wall, which sprung up around the store in the days following the shooting.
Ultimately, Taylor says the medium of portrait photography helped to personalize his efforts. “I think the power of photography allows for a space for us to reflect on an individual’s experience and through a collective body of work,” Taylor says. “Through representation, hopefully we can care more about each other.”
If you go: Still Strong is on view at the Museum of Boulder at Tebo Center through April 10; 2205 Broadway, Boulder; 9 a.m.–5 p.m., except when closed on Tuesday’s; Admission starting at $8; free for members of the Museum of Boulder.