There’s a tendency among the public to fixate on mass shootings while ignoring other types of gun violence. Massacres like the ones last year in Charleston, South Carolina, and San Bernardino, California, gain the most attention, but such mass shootings account for only 2 percent of the approximately 30,000 gun deaths each year in the U.S.
Michael Zbieranowki, a U.K.-based photography student, set out to capture the scope of gun violence in America with the help of social media. Using images taken from Google Street View, he’s laid out on Instagram a gallery of 277 photos of houses, street corners, convenience stores, bowling alleys, and other everyday locations where people have been struck by bullets. The project, called Someplace Else, launched last fall. Zbieranowki updates the collection almost daily.
The power of his selections comes from the pairing of often mundane surroundings with captions describing in spare but unflinching terms the bloodshed that unfolded in the place shown in the photo.
January 6, 2016: A 27-year-old man was shot and killed outside a Crown Heights housing complex in Brooklyn, New York. Police said they found the man outside the residence, suffering from a gunshot wound to the chest. He was rushed to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. No arrests have been made at this time and the investigation is ongoing.
“It’s called Someplace_Else because I was listening to Obama’s speech after the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, and he said, ‘Our thoughts and prayers are not enough,” says the 22-year-old, who lives in Cornwall, England. “It does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America.” Zbiernaowski started the project the following week. “I found that the number of people killed in mass shootings is only a fraction of the total number of gun deaths each year [in the U.S.],” he says, “and I was thinking, Why aren’t we talking about the rest?” To find shooting incidents, Zbieranowski uses the Gun Violence Archive which provides geolocation for U.S. shootings whenever available. Zbieranowski then pulls up Google Street View, zeros in on the location as precisely as possible, and takes a screenshot of the approximate setting.
January 6, 2016: A 49-year-old man and 39-year-old woman were found shot dead at a home in Katy, Texas. Police said they were making a welfare check at the residence when they discovered the bodies together in one of the bedrooms. Investigators are treating the case as a murder-suicide. Before the incident the man sent a text to his wife’s ex-husband, asking him to come pick up his 14-year-old daughter. A photo posted by Someplace Else (@someplace_else) on
People are absent from most of the photos, making the locations appear deserted and leaving the reader to contemplate familiar details: a car parked near an alleyway, trees at the end of a block, an empty intersection. “I wanted to have images that were not sensationalist in the way that certain news organizations cover shootings,” he says.
December 11, 2015: A 3-year-old boy was killed after accidentally shooting himself while playing with a loaded gun at home in South Hutchinson, Kansas. The boy’s father, a deputy at the Reno County Sheriff’s office, was in another room when he heard the gunshot. He rushed to find his son with a gunshot wound and administered first aid until emergency responders arrived. The boy was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said the gun did not belong to the deputy, but a friend who no longer lived in the home. A photo posted by Someplace Else (@someplace_else) on
Zbieranowski works alone on this project, so he’s unable to document every new homicide, accidental shooting, and suicide on his own. Nor is it easy for him to recall details of all the incidents he’s chronicled over the past three months. But the gun deaths involving children, he says, stay with him. “I remember one incident on November 21, when a 5-year-old boy was accidentally shot and killed by his brother,” he says. “The father had been toying with the family cat using the weapon’s laser sight and forgot to move the gun out of the child’s reach when he went into the next room.”
November 21, 2015: A 5-year-old boy died after being accidentally shot by his brother at home in Goodlettsville, Tennessee. The boy’s father had been playing with the family cat using the laser-sight on the weapon in the living room. Police said the man went into the kitchen and forgot to move the weapon out of the children’s reach. The sibling allegedly picked up the gun and pulled the trigger, firing the round that struck the boy. Investigators are reviewing the case to see if charges will be filed against the boy’s father. A photo posted by Someplace Else (@someplace_else) on
Zbieranowski understands that one image, in isolation, is easy to overlook. But he hopes that the collection of photos as they appear on Instagram will prompt people to pay more attention to the larger issue. “One post by itself doesn’t carry as much weight,” he says. “It’s the accumulative effect that it builds that kind of has the power.”
January 12, 2016: A 14-year-old boy was mistaken for an intruder and shot and killed by his father at home in Cincinnati, Ohio. The boy had skipped school and was hiding in the basement of the residence. Police said the man thought an intruder was in the house and went to investigate with a gun in his hand. The teen startled his father, who shot him in the neck. Investigators said they believe the shooting was accidental. A photo posted by Someplace Else (@someplace_else) on