The magazine of the photo-essay
November 2016 issue
Concealed: She’s Got a Gun
by Shelley Calton
A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine.  Fabulous! Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
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“I don’t want to rely on talking an intruder out of killing me or my loved ones,” Lee Ann said as she skillfully loaded the magazine into her Beretta.   The women in this collection of portraits have chosen to own handguns for protection. The majority of them have been through training to obtain licenses to conceal and carry their guns in public. They are ready to face an attacker, take aim and pull the trigger.   Each of the women in this series has her own unique backstory that has motivated her decision to carry a concealed weapon. Some of the women have had incidents in their past, and others have been threatened and they now feel the need to own a handgun for self- defense. Many of the women that I photographed grew up immersed in the Texas gun culture, and to them, guns are a form of cultural expression deeply embedded in a family
tradition and passed on from generation to generation. In this respect, I understand the rich history and stories that can accompany these sentimental objects, as well as the sense of security they can provide. I share a common ground with these women. As a child, my family owned shotguns and rifles for sport, and my father kept a handgun in his nightstand. My father taught my sisters and me to shoot at an early age.   The images of these women with their guns can be startling. Guns are typically envisioned in the hands of men, not mothers and grandmothers. Guns are powerful and polarizing. They can both take a life or save a life.   I considered photographing the women and their guns separately but felt that it was imperative to allow these women to expose a portion of their identities that is regularly concealed. It was also important to capture how each woman holds her gun, how she relates to it and where she keeps it at home or carries it on her body.   On a very basic level, the women in this series own a handgun for protection, but the bigger question is, why? This question was at the core of my photographic investigation. I found that gun ownership gives women an opportunity to make a bold statement: They refuse to be vulnerable and victimized. They decry the myth of the helpless woman and instead project an ethic of unapologetic self-reliance.   Much of the opposition I’ve faced in this project insists that the women in the photographs are insecure, careless and paranoid. To that, I would ask, what makes them this way? What kind of society are we living in that in order for a woman to go to bed and feel safe she needs a gun tucked between her mattress? The public has grown accustomed to seeing guns in the hands of soldiers and police officers but are quick to criticize when they are in the hands of a defenseless woman.   Indeed, an ideal world would be free from fear, and no one would need a gun. But in a society in which the overwhelming majority of sexual assault and domestic violence is against women, these images portray women in a role of taking self- protection into their own hands.   The gun control debate and issues around it have been raging in the United States for a long time. Continuing tragic events that surround us in the media fuel the conversation. Political views aside, my intention for this project is to give the viewer a glimpse into a subculture of Texas women that will not become victims.
Alana, 2011.
Amy, 2013.
Brianna, 2013.
Carol & Sandy, 2011.
Casey, 2014.
Donna, 2013.
Jessica, 2013.
Kaitlyn, 2011.
Katherine, 2013.
Kathryn, 2013.
Katie, 2011.
Korie, 2012.
Mary Lou, 2012.
Megan, 2013.
Melody, 2013.
Nicole, 2011.
Vianne, 2011.
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