“That Photo Broke My Heart”

Stories like this are some of the worst. 26-year-old preschool teacher Kimberly Evans fell into the raging water while hiking near a waterfall in Bells Canyon a couple weeks back. A day later rescuers still hadn’t found her and I was sent out to photograph the story. The police wouldn’t let me up to photograph the search efforts so I waited at the police command post where the family was waiting for any news. I sat off in the distance with a pair of TV cameramen. We hunkered down in the shade, giving the family space during this horrible time. There were lots of emotional scenes: hugs, hand holding, and solemn faces. After a few hours we were told that the search would soon be called off, the water being too high and fast for recovery efforts. A police officer walked up the street with the woman’s parents, telling them that the search would be called off (my assumption). It’s the worst kind of news for a parent and it was heartbreaking to watch. You wouldn’t wish something like this on anyone.


That’s the full frame, shot from a distance with a super-telephoto 400mm lens. On the website and in print we cropped the photo tight, zeroing in on the emotion.

Just minutes before I took the photo above, I was talking with another photographer about how much we hated tragic events like this. How we hated to see these terrible things, and how we felt as photojournalists during times like this. It’s a huge topic that I need to write more about in the future.

This photo captured the emotion of a tragic event. It is a powerful moment, one of those things I’ve seen on this job that I’ll never forget. The kind of thing that stuns you speechless when you go home after and your spouse casually asks, “Did you have a good day at work?”

Some readers on our site felt my photo went too far. I’ll end this post with their comments, which you can agree or disagree with:

Tribune – would you please show a little sympathy and empathy…we do not see to see the sorry of the parents as they try to get through this horrendous ordeal…..PLEASE think how you would feel is this were your child.

Kind of inappropriate, trib, to show a mother’s unspeakable grief – doncha think? Privacy…

Horrified the Tribune chose to show a picture of her mother learning her daughters fate.
Is there no decency anymore? No privacy for the bereaved. Having cameras in your face while hearing what no one should have to hear. Your child is gone. Having to see yourself in the paper on the worse day of your life.

THINK Tribune!

The look on her mother’s face says it all. It’s devastating to lose a child no matter how old they are. I agree that it is in poor taste for that photo to be accompanying this article. Her parents deserve a little bit of privacy during this time.

My heartfelt condolences to the family. Tragic. That photo broke my heart.

Shame on you tabloid Tribune!!! Give the parents some privacy.

Dear God: Please don’t make my death something that will feature my mother breaking down in public. I can’t imagine a more troubling thing to weigh on my soul than to have my mother share her grief with the world. I ask you for this, Lord, as I know common decency is not something you find in journalism anymore and “self-restraint” can never weigh up to the money that exploitative photos are sure to bring in. Shame on you, Tribune.

My sympathies go out to this good family in their hour of sorrow.

As a sidenote: I am usually a fan of the Trib’s journalistic efforts–but not today. This picture showing the unbearable grief of this poor mother is heart-wrenching and uncalled for. Best that this photo be left out of the public’s eye and these good people grieve in privacy.

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