During her first major reportage story, on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, photographer and filmmaker Shiho Fukada encountered a man who had lost all of his possessions during the 2005 storm. She recalls, “He said to me: ‘You [media] are all flocking to us now, but I know after the news is not hot anymore, you will just forget about us.’”
His words have stuck with Fukada as she has made an effort to report on underrepresented stories during her career, such as her first multimedia project, “Japan’s Disposable Workers,”—a four-part series about the employment crisis in Japan—as well as her Op-Doc published by The New York Times, “Stray Bullet,” about a 13-year-old girl who was shot and paralyzed in Brooklyn two years ago.
Fukada had a general concept about illustrating the effects of gun violence when she came across 13-year-old Tayloni’s story in the news. But she didn’t find much about the aftermath—“The media seemed to have moved on from the news,” Fukada says. “I feared that whatever happened to Tayloni and her family next might get lost, their story buried among the ceaseless incidents of gun violence in this country.”
In “Stray Bullet,” Fukada films Tayloni and her mother, Priscilla, a year after the shooting. Their family is strained under the burden of debt, in addition to Tayloni’s trauma and disability. Priscilla relocated the family to a housing project in Harlem, but fears the threat of violence is still present in their neighborhood.
Fukada spent nearly four months with the family, getting to know Tayloni while she made collages, put together puzzles and watched TV, before picking up her camera. Tayloni was unable to give an interview, however—Fukada says she was too closed off to discuss anything personal. But, she says: “For this film, it is important to have enough moments where the audience can observe and feel what is going on in Tayloni’s head. I hope that instead of hearing her through an interview, they can understand her actions, reactions and expressions.”
“Stray Bullet” emphasizes stray-bullet shootings as an overlooked form of gun violence, and Fukada reports that women and children are the primary victims. It’s a tragic topic that she hopes to shed light on. She says: “As a parent of a young child myself, the issue resonated with me because I believe that raising our children in a safe environment should not be a privilege.”
“Stray Bullet” was the grand-prize winner in PDN’s Storytellers competition. See the online winners’ gallery soon at pdnstorytellers.com. – Jacqui Palumbo
We All We Got
Picture Story: Japan’s Disposable Workers (For PDN subscribers; login required)