This Just In! Hank Willis Thomas Hits Game Winning Homer In Bottom Of The Ninth To Win Game

Hank Willis Thomas' essay (read in new story section) marks the last story of The Photographs Not Taken collection. I have been collecting these stories for a year now and the project has far surpassed all of my expectations and dreams of what the collection would become. I am so grateful to the 42 artists who have helped me illustrate that a photograph does not just live as an image on paper or computer screen. A photograph is much more than that and can live in the form of the written word, a story, a song, a dream, a memory, it is our experiences, our lives and all else that speaks the language of life.

Many of these stories hit me on a personal level as I think we all can relate to the dual tension that is involved with being artists and simply being human, having relationships, families, friends, children, etc, and finding a balance in our lives. Hank's story examines the pain and difficulty he experienced at the funeral of his cousin Songha who was murdered for a gold chain in 2000. The murder of his cousin had a tremendous impact on Hank, not just as a man, but also an artist; much of Hank's work is fueled by that murder and "what I learned and what I lost when the closest person to me in the world was killed over a chain." Hank's essay, like many others in the collection, provides a behind the scenes look into his work. While his images are incredibly powerful and push us to question who we are and what we stand for, his essay is the back drop for these images as it examines his own pain and is a first hand account of the experience of losing a family member to violence.

Two Guns, 2005. Made in Collaboration with Kambui Olujimi

Looking through the fence, 2005. Made in Collaboration with Kambui Olujimi

Priceless #1, 2004.

I am honored to have Hank a part of this collection and I must admit I held back tears reading his story. I am so touched by the fact that there are individuals out there like Hank fighting to make change as he not only keeps the spirit and soul of his beloved cousin alive everyday in his work, but also that he has found a way to honor and celebrate his cousin's life with all of us. Like Hank, much of my work derives from a single moment in my life when I was almost murdered. Based on the unique understanding of life that death provides, I believe that art has the power to challenge and subsequently change conventional ways of thinking. Problems cannot be solved if they are not identified; I see great potential in art to reveal a truth and force us to raise questions we must ask ourselves and how we can make change.

Shooting Stars, 2004. Blacks were 6 times more likely than whites to be murdered in 2000. 94% of them were killed by other blacks. Statistics from the United States Bureau of Justice.