As I photographed the very first press conference after Trayvon Martin’s death, I had the feeling that this story could grow into something bigger. That feeling was confirmed when I covered the first rally at the Allen Chapel AME church in Sanford a short time later.
From there the story became a national case with media from all over the world descending on Sanford, Florida. I remember being in the living room of a family in the Goldsboro community documenting them as they watched the news of George Zimmerman being charged with murder and standing among a throng of media at the Seminole County jail as Zimmerman was brought in under tight security for booking. I had the opportunity to photograph Jesse Jackson speaking at the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Eatonville as well as some of the large rallies in Fort Mellon Park in downtown Sanford and a Shellie Zimmerman hearing.
Later, I had the opportunity to be on the three-person photo pool team that would be inside of the courtroom during the duration of the trial. I, along with my collegaues Gary Green and Joe Burbank, provided all of the still photographs from inside of courtroom 5D in the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center.
During the past 16 months, I was present at many of the events related to this story.
Being a photojournalist is an amazing job. I love being able to document the history of the area, especially since I am from Central Florida. My blood, sweat and tears help make up the area that I cover and I am honored every day that I get the chance to do it.
It can also be very challenging. I am inches away from people at the best and worst moments of their life. One day of the trial, inside of courtroom 5D, the sweatshirt that Trayvon Martin was wearing was resting against a wall in a framed enclosure inches away from my face. His parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, sat directly behind me. These are moments that require photojournalists to do our job, but quietly, discreetly and with dignity.
I was also on the lawn of the courthouse the night the verdict was read. It was a long, hot and tense 15-hour day waiting with the rest of the world as the jury deliberated. As the verdict was read it felt like the air was sucked out of crowd. There was very little anger. It was mostly disbelief, sadness and shock.
I strive for fairness and objectivity whenever I cover a story, both for my subjects and the story. I hope that shows in my work.