Jonathan Hanson Photographs a Fragile Forgiveness: Mass Killing at Mother Emanuel AME Church One Year Later

June 30, 2016

By Barbara Goldman

© Jonathan Hanson

Member of the congregation of Mother Emanuel AME Church, where mass killing of nine people took place last June 17, 2015.

Mother Emanuel AME Church One Year Later, Charleston, South Carolina after Mass Killing, June 17, 2015

© Jonathan Hanson

© Jonathan Hanson

© Jonathan Hanson

Recently, narrative portrait photographer Jonathan Hanson shot a photo essay assignment commissioned by Christianity Today. Hanson went to Charleston, South Carolina in April to cover the aftermath of the mass shooting of nine people at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston for the one-year anniversary on June 17, 2015. “A Fragile Forgiveness,” ran as a cover and 16-page photo essay.

Alecia Sharp, Photo Editor of Christianity Today, saw some of Hanson’s work and was drawn to his street portraiture he had shot in Baltimore. She reached out to him to work on this story for the magazine, shooting it in a similar way to present Charleston one year later. Hanson made two trips with writer Bob Simentana. The first trip for two days was meeting and building contacts for the story.

Hanson spent time with family members of the victims and the church congregation, capturing portraits and details for the victims’ legacy. He wanted to capture their grief, forgiveness and strength in carryon on with their lives. “This one was challenging because people have become very media weary, and we really had to make an effort to build trust,” says Hanson. The magazine wanted to do the story on the forgiveness aspect and find out what that means for the people who publicly forgave the shooter. Hanson had to seek out the details and put the pieces together. See his images for A Fragile Forgiveness here.

You can read what The Huffington Post had to say about the project, and see the full series on his website. Hanson will be taking over The Open Society Foundations’ Instagram, featuring images from the series starting next Monday, July 4th.

View more portraiture and personal projects at Jonathan Hanson’s site. He is available for assignments in New York and beyond.

© Jonathan Hanson/ Surviving members of Mother Emanuel AME Church, Charleston., South Carolina one year later