It was a quiet Sunday afternoon in Katy, Tex. Most folks were just getting back from church and returning to their new normal of assessing and rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey devastated their neighborhoods. I had been there on assignment less than 24 hours, following up with some families for a long-term story on the recovery, when a friend in Houston sent me a text. “Todd, mass shooting near San Antonio. It’s 2.5 hours away.” Then news alerts started coming in, followed by a call from the National desk. The next hour was a scramble to find out more information while driving back to my hotel to pack and check out. Just days before, I had covered the truck attack in Lower Manhattan that had killed eight.
Running from horrific news event to horrific news event has become a familiar, gruesome ritual. But adhering to my own philosophy for creating thoughtful, intimate images is no less important. Often I work on longer-term stories, like the Houston recovery piece (on which I have been collaborating with Leslye Davis, who focuses more on video). This allows me to get into people’s lives in a slower, gentler way. These in-depth stories are still about news, but they are more intimate and reflective because of the time I spend as a journalist gaining people’s trust. Breaking news, on the other hand, is deadline driven. I approach it with the same level of respect for those affected, but I am spending more time chasing down leads with reporters and less time making the person I’m photographing feel comfortable and understood.