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City In Mourning
On April 3rd, 2009 Jiverly Wong, depressed by economic hardship and aggravated by his poor English language skills, walked into the American Civic Association in Binghamton, N.Y. and opened fire. Within moments 13 victims were dead. As news of the tragedy spread and the victims were identified, the city of Binghamton began to mourn.
For more information on helping the families of victims visit Binghamton’s website here.
64 thoughts on “mark ovaska – city in mourning”
can’t see it properly…it is stopping somewhere at the middle and starts again!
at last, i could see…excellent piece…very moving…it left me wanting to see more photos…
like a rainbow…
what was the painting?
loved the way your story moved me..
around each frame..
so much information..
no pun intended….
audio was great too..
the power of
I felt like I wanted to see more…it’s as if the story was abbreviated somehow. It felt like a news piece with feeling, but as it was building momentum, it ended. I think that this is a tragic and important story to tell, and I’m curious as to the background of the victims and the one who caused this tragedy to unfold. I know that access must be limited in this time of mourning, but there’s more to the story that needs to be told. Great job, Mark. And brave to be the one sensitively holding the camera in delicate times.
Congratulations on publication here at Burn, Mark. A very difficult subject to tackle: so many emotions running high – very hard to judge when to go close and when to stay back – I imagine.
You seem to have given us a mixture of close and bystander photographs here. I don’t mean that as a criticism, more as a comment that to get more may have been impossible. I would have liked more information: like was Jiverly Wong an attendee at the Civic Association, did he survive, did he know his victims, how well was he armed, where did he obtain his weapon(s)?
Favorite photographs are 2 4 7 8 14 15 16 17 and 19. Strongest photographs 14 and 17. Just my edit Mark, hope it helps.
Is this work in progress Mark? You may want to follow the families of victim and perpetrator but it won’t be easy. The essay leads, of course, to the gun ownership issue which may also be a road to follow. Good luck!
Mark, some very strong images here. I wonder why the lopsided tent at the grave touched me so deeply, but it did. And certainly the bullet hole in the glass with the reflection of the house speaks volumes. Your cover photo is poignant as well. The woman in front of the American Civic Association and the perspective you show of the people holding hands at the vigil. All of these and more tell a sad and powerful story. But as a whole the essay leaves me feeling unsatisfied, as if the true story is hidden beneath the surface and will take time to emerge.
I admire you for taking this on, for gaining access to two of the funerals, and for giving us an eye into the pain and shock such an act brings to an entire community. You probably went as far as you could at this time. I just hope you will dig deeper and, as time goes on, manage to connect with the families of all the victims, including Mr. Wong’s. A photo essay that goes to the heart of the loss of each individual would touch a chord in all who have lost persons they love. And that includes every person alive.
A sad story. It is very difficult to input the feelings but in some of your shots You describe that wonderfully.
DEPRESSION sometimes convert to AGGRESSION and we are facing a new problem in this period of recession.
Its a set of pictures that document a tragedy. They are restrained and respectful. Well, although i suspect, quickly taken, as is the nature of a story like this. They do not connect with me emotionally at all. Do they need to? I dont know. I mean, the information is there and so I have been given and understood the circumstances behind this(as much as one can) event. But shouldnt they make me FEEL something? I dont know, but I want them to. Its like when I read that two thousand eight hundred children died of malaria TODAY. Its an awful statistic, but it remains a statistic nonetheless and I cannot intellectualise an emotional response. “Hey thats pretty awfull..I feel awful” …doesent work and I would be a liar if I said it did. Same here, Its tragic, no doubt about it, but this essay does not make me FEEL the tragedy, only to know of it.
Unfortunately this one is not loading properly for me… I get to see only about 7 or 8 images, and then it freezes, and the sound is garbled as if it were all on ‘fast-forward’ with the voices sounding like chipmunks. Tried three times to download it, no luck. Too bad, the few images I can see look very interesting and I want to see more…
I had the same problem…you may trying closing down the window once and then try again…that way I got it running!
Nice work Mark.
Very powerful works.
i just have to put in my bit here…easy to purchase hand guns and assault rifles in the United States of America make a tragedy like this all the more likely to happen….the same personal frustrations Jiverly Wong suffered in a culture where no lethal weapons were available so easily might have led to some violence or misbehavior , but it is unlikely that 13 innocents he did not even know would be dead…
In 2007/2008 there were 4,172 murders that involved handguns in England and Wales. In the US there were 7,795. The population of the US is 5 times higher than the population of the UK. Since 1997, handguns have been extremely hard to buy in England. How do you figure making it more difficult to buy them has made any difference?
DAH, I remember reading an article some time ago of how some African tribesmen had been able to arm themselves with AK47s instead of the usual spears or bows and arrows. An argument broke out over the ownership of a donkey. As I recall, a goodly number were killed in the ensuing firefight. The donkey walked away.
i was just baiting you wasn’t i ?? i KNEW you would be the first on for this one!!! i welcome your intelligent challenge…i cannot make a positive case for either the U.K.(where there must be a lot of leftover guns from before 1997) or South Africa…that does nothing to deter me from favoring better U.S. gun policy…at the same time, i would certainly support your right to go hunt over populated deer with a registered rifle in the Texas brush…
but, to the point:
for sure, criminals are going to get guns one way or the other…so “easy to purchase” means nothing..
Jiverly was not a criminal and had no record…he was temporarily psychologically impaired…
now that you are on the case with the numbers and a good reporter , please give us the number of accidental and “moment of passion” death vs. criminal intent, where the easy to purchase option would, i think, skew the numbers back in the direction of my anti-gun lobby….
Jim, I can’t replicate your numbers anywhere on the internet. Britain’s Home Office published a report for summarizing crime statistics for the UK for 2007/2008 and tallied 52 homicides as a result of firearms (not just handguns). The report is here:
The bit about 52 homicides is on page 73 in the PDF.
Sorry, data starts on page 73. Fifty-two homicides in on page 74.
Nice one Preston, I thought the figures from Jim looked pretty high for this docile Island.
you covered my exact thoughts too..
same here.. felt nothing!
I have passed through Binghampton many times driving (or by bus) on my way from Toronto to New York or Toronto to Philadelphia. Also, long ago, my brother used to live in Athens, Pennsylvania (across the state line) and when I would visit him, he would drive me up to Binghampton to eat or drink to talk to people. I have always had a soft spot for that the city, the no-nonsense, open-heartedness of the people, as Mark has pointed out, a city filled by the dreams and determination of authentic ambition and hope….
when the slaying unfolded, i was shocked and heart-broken. I earn most of my money by teaching English (and sometimes photography and writing) to people who have come to America and Canada to enhance their live’s fortune. I too am a child and an adult of immigration and my wife and son are immigrants. In truth, this senseless slaughter is something we all should mourn…not only for the death of the departed and for the grief inflicted upon these families but because each of us, especially those of us who live in N.America, are who we are because of our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents difficult dreams, born on the back of profound hardship and emmigration. But now too more than ever, in a world connected by ether and blue-speed 1’s and 0’s, we are all migratory, alll immigrants, all scattered far and wide from each other and our families and our hopes rest on that dream…that we transform and endure hardship as a way to make right the pain of this passing life….
Mark, it is a powerful and beautifully photographed story. I particularly appreciate the tenderness and respect that your pictures and your audio have afforded the family amid a swelter of grief. …i actually ‘liked’ (maybe respond is a better word) it’s truncation…its brevity…its missing link…because in truth this is not an essay or project, but an act of reporting…a series of photographs that attempt to show us the grief and the community as it stands together….if there is an emptiness is must be because they are bereft and we cannot be offered an explanation or context for this or anything, that like a ruptured moment, life turns and disappears and we are left in its wake grieving…
from this, where do we go….that is my hope for the continuation of your story, especially with these families…
thank you for sharing…
all the best
Really a very good piece of work.
O.K. Shouldn’t be posting while doing layout. I see I said “murder” and should have typed “handgun offenses.”
The point is the numbers of are lowed anywhere compared to the total population. Most people with guns don’t shoot people or hold up banks.
David, I don’t hunt. Vegetarian. Don’t kill stuff. Member of PETA. I do have a number of handguns, though, that I shoot regularly. And I have a Concealed Carry license.
Or, the numbers are low…in plain English. :)
That stupidly reminds me. Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion should be required reading.
Mark, excellent work overall on a hugely tragic story. I admire the way you got yourself there and reported this story so sensitively, and beautifully. Can wait to see what you shoot next.
Jim, DAH, it’s really difficult to get a firearms license for anything other than a shotgun (I know, close-up, shotguns are devastating). Even for a shotgun license you have to prove that you have a use (clay pigeon or hunting) and have a lockable place of safekeeping. Since the Dunblane massacre of 1996, handgun laws have been really strict. I’m not sure of the situation but I believe that all handguns must be left at shooting ranges. Not sure of that but I can check.
We do have a problem with inner-city knife crime. If they had access to firearms it would be worse. Playing devil’s advocate: a man was jailed several years ago for shooting a burglar (one of at least two) as he fled after attempting to burgle his farmhouse. They had tried to rob him before.
I suppose firearms are like policemen. You don’t want them around most of the time, but when night falls ….
One of the finest things about being British is that after a twat killed lots of people with an assault rifle we banned assault rifles. After another nutter killed lots of kids with hand guns we banned hand guns. The US would do well to follow suit.
Note to self read to the bottom of the page before you spend half an hour looking up gun crime in the UK. I was sure Joe was well off the mark but I’ll never get that half hour back.
Joe you really vegetarian??
Of course, a survey of firearms crimes linked to social deprivation would lead to some interesting conclusions. Might be a photo essay for someone?
also your data for USA seems wrong:
total murders by firearms in 2007= 10.086
Your numbers seems to be way off.. I’d be very interested to know where you got the numbers on the UK from?
I know this is really old statistics, but it’s not entirely different today, allthough numbers in the US have gone down to around 10 000 like ebele points out..
“In 1992, handguns were used in the murders of 33 people in Britain, 36 in Sweden, 97 in Switzerland, 128 in Canada, 13 in Australia, 60 in Japan and 13,220 in the United States.”
Just to add to Mike R’s point about inner city violence in the UK….the main gun problem we now have here is from replica guns that are converted to fire live ammunition. In my city of Manchester though, which has been known as ‘Gunchester’ for years, 11 gangsters have just been jailed – and as a result shootings have dropped by 92 per cent, with no gang-related murders in 14 months. Knife crime, on the other hand, is on the up…and very young teenagers are usually the victims.
I find the prevailing US support on the right to bear arms very strange. Ironic that it is the religious right that seems to support it most passionately – the very people who oppose (sometimes violently) a woman’s right to choose…isn’t there a contradiction in there somewhere?
Oh ciara, you’ve got THAT right. These pro-gun, anti-abortion folks also support the death penalty and abhor the idea of gay marriage. We humans are such complex creatures.
DAVID, please delete my previous comment. It was unnecessarily provocative and had absolutely nothing to do with photography. It was also not true. After you delete that one, you can delete this one too. Thanks.
This is a difficult story to cover in a very short time. Never easy and the tragic circumstances make it clearly difficult to get close without “intruding”, to show the sadness while being respectful. I love your first picture. Moving, great lights. Almost seems to be picture taken during the “day of the day” in Mexico…. Somehow, the rest of the essay did not live up to that one very strong picture of yours and I did not feel much for the other shots somehow with the exception of couple of other photographs (man at the very end and the picture of the men carrying the dead out of the church)… That one first shot though is very powerful….
Mark, good stuff, good on ya. I can only imagine.
Jim, the rest of us in the civilized world only shake our heads at the bizarre obsession you folks have with guns. Your stats are ridiculous.
I haven’t said anything here for sometime and I haven’t read all the responses BUT first a BIG CONGRATS to you Mark! Its a great essay, I felt the pain of the affected people even though I didn’t get to know the families that well… their on-going pain is a long term essay, but this has been done with a news bent I suspect and could turn into something a lot more!
I did feel a real sense of shock, which when you are in the middle of these sudden catastrophes is what you are actually surrounded with, its quite profound and I think I really got that sense from this essay. The fact that many of the people are not American born probably adds to the dislocated feeling I got from these images as well.
And Mark I think you can sling shot this into a great essay about gun control in the USA. I am really glad that David has bought this up (though David beware the -genie is out of the box now -and I am sure this site will be overwhelmed with traffic as a result) I have VERY strong views on it as it applies to my country.
I would protest that the Americanisation of the world should leave out the bit about whatever ammendment it is that everyone quotes when it comes to gun ownership. Which is the bit about the ‘right to bear arms’ …In context I believe it states something like the -right to bear arms against oppressive government, which to me does not say a lone jockey can go out and shoot up the citizenry just because he has the ‘right to bear arms’
And as for statistics that PROVE UNEQUIVOCALLY that if you can’t get a gun you can’t shoot someone JIM POWERS please read this (Martin Brink this is a very recent study and the figures you have given are actually from an old advertising campaign to abolish guns) Its from a VERY credible source.
In many ways Australia is a pioneering country as well as the USA and we have MASSIVE tracts of land where a gun is an essential tool of station hands, BUT the only people that need guns for work aside from that are the police. And lord knows I am not a friend of the gungies, but I don’t believe anyone should be able to access them as easily as you can in America.
But would anyone be courageous enough to go against the ALL powerful gun-toting NRA?
Doubtful you would have to put ‘life and liberty’ above the pursuit of money…
Your comments are very likely on the mark, though probably no need to bring abortion into to discussion. One could be anti-gun, and anti-abortion presumably. No need for apology. Burn comments often stray from photography, which is OK. The photos, and the stories they tell bring up questions which need to be asked and debated. What IS the point of telling a story anyway?
That should read
“And lord knows I am not a friend of the gungies, but I don’t believe anyone should be able to access them (GUNS) as easily as you can in America.”
Good to see you back here.
Jim is from TEXAS………
Panos is from CALIFORNIA…….
explains everything :>))))))
Im getting the Salvadorian citizenship…soonest..
if u could only spend a day in my building…..
This one goes to Jim and all my Texan friends!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
( and all the occasional gun lovers:)))))))))))
“……She’s not a girl who misses much
Do do do do do do- oh yeah
She’s well acquainted with the touch of the velvet hand
Like a lizard on a window pane
The man in the crowd with the multicoloured mirrors
On his hobnail boots
Lying with his eyes while his hands are busy
A soap impression of his wife which he ate
And donated to the National Trust
I need a fix ’cause I’m going down
Down to the bits that I left uptown
I need a fix cause I’m going down
Mother Superior jump the gun
Mother Superior jump the gun
Mother Superior jump the gun
Mother Superior jump the gun
Mother Superior jump the gun
Mother Superior jump the gun
Happiness is a warm gun
(Bang Bang Shoot Shoot)
Happiness is a warm gun, momma
(Bang Bang Shoot Shoot)
When I hold you in my arms
(Ooooooooohhh, oh yeah!)
And when I feel my finger on your trigger
I know nobody can do me no harm
Because happiness is a warm gun, momma
(Bang Bang Shoot Shoot)
Happiness is a warm gun
(Bang Bang Shoot Shoot)
-Yes it is, it’s a warm gun!
(Bang Bang Shoot Shoot)
Happiness is a warm, yes it is…
(Bang Bang Shoot Shoot)
Well don’t ya know that happiness is a warm gun, momma?
(Bang Bang Shoot Shoot)
Were a couple a Canucks, does that explain us? Anyway, checked out your site, love your stuff.
You don’t want to be lumped into the same pot as me!
My passive aggressive nature is very un-Canadian :>))
Sometimes my finger quivers before I hit the innocently bystanding submit button…yet I still hit it, and without regret…yet I still check over my comments in the morning to count the mortally offended. And ya know what? Even in my checking to see the aftermath, I really don’t give a flying fuck if I’ve offended someone because my thoughts, comments, and diligence to comment in this shared art space come from an intelligent and thought out place, and from an angle or opinion which I can defend. Yet, I am open for others’ comments and discussion…isn’t that what BuRN is all about? Like I’ve repeatedly stated, I’ve learned so much from the readership here, and I continue to comment for my wandering eyes channel my intellectual self and create the need to know more, know more, know more…yes, I comment from a selfish place…I want to learn and know and be heard and my never-ending quest for knowledge is fueled by those who stop by here in their weary travels.
Patricia, I think you are immensely intelligent and extremely talented. You exude a gentleness and appreciation for what goes on here…and you know much already of the work that is exhibited here…something that my virgin eyeballs cannot claim to have experienced. You are one of the commenters who I look forward to reading…so that being said, I beg you to never apologize for how you feel about something…even if it is in a tangent wrought with emotion filled reaction…these emotions are yours and they are never wrong. So, go ahead…I triple dog dare ya…feel it and react…as you always do in your graceful way. I celebrate you and your thoughts, Patricia. Please don’t ever apologize for your comments again…
Carrie, well said!
Mark, a moving essay and very well photographed. I admit, the end of the series came a bit abrupt. But it is good to point our eyes to this tragedy, because it raises questions about how we deal with people who come to our countries as immigrants or foreigners. How do we integrate these people in our society?
Another question is about the access to weapons?
Well, I live in Germany and just recently in the south of Germany in a small town called Winnenden a 17 year old guy killed 15 people. His motives were frustration and depression. We have tight weapon regulations, but this kid was familiar with weapons. His father was in a gun club (I have to stress here, that it is something very common, it is like a sport club and most of the time it is more about beiing social and drinking rather than about shooting a gun). Anyway, this young man had access to weapons even though his father had his guns locked away. I guess if you want to get a gun, you find a way to get one. Of course the outcry in Germany was very strong. 4 weeks later the police noticed that the amount of guns returned voluntary to the police was incredibly high.
The access and use of video games like Counter-Strike was discussed as well.
Personally I see the problem is somewhere else. That brings me to the question about immigrants, refugees and people on the corner of society. The question is, how much attention, how much respect do we bring to our neighbours, to the people who live in our communities?
In Germany we have many refugees living here. Many of them only have the right to stay and they can be sent back to their countries any time. This can go on for 20 years. The word we use is “Duldung” which translates to toleration. I feel even the use of the word says a lot. We simply tolerate it, but it feels like ignoring rather than an active integration. This happens to many people and this creates misery and frustration. What I like to say is that we should be more responsibel and pay more attention to the people that surround us. Approach them, make them part of the community! This is what I hope for when I travel to a foreign country where I am the outsider and hope for people to share their life with me.
Okay, work is waiting and sun is up!
I’ve just watched this a second time…it’s very poignant stuff and I’m grateful to Mark for sharing. I hope there is more to come from this project, because it’s a powerful way into visually documenting the whole gun debate
I didn’t hear about this shooting. It’s tragic that such incidents now blend almost into one on the news agenda. Has anyone read the book ‘We need to talk about Kevin’ by Lionel Shriver?
Thank you everyone! I really appreciated the words… (Even the critiques.)
I’m familiar with the work of almost everyone here; a great group of very talented people. I look forward to meeting all of you who I haven’t. Soon.
Matt: Good to hear from you!
Lisa: Where have you been? I have one of your images from the fires stuck in my head.
Bob: An encouragement as always, thanks.
chunky kudos for producing a set of clean and highly publishable photos.. usable from newspapers and magazines to .. more.
i thought the piece was a great example of a journalistic approach and as such has produced just the kind of conversation which probably needs to be had around the issues raised.
it´s a different shape of photo story than has appeared here for a while.. and welcome as such.
the issue is much more important than the photographs themselves and as such any critique by me is redundant – you´ve achieved a discussion on guns.. an estimable result.
your figures for uk gun crime, and us for that matter, are wildly inaccurate..
where they come from friend?
Congratulations on a fine essay. Clear, concise and to the point. It’s been interesting to see how this essay has sparked conversations on the issue of gun control.
Here in NZ we are in a similar position to Lisa’s in Oz. Most guns are used for hunting and target shooting. There are very few pistols, and what are available are used for target shooting, and a special licence is needed to own them. The licence has very strict guidelines and usually the handguns must be left locked away at the pistol club.
Here’s a link explaining the situation here.
Hunting is a huge part of NZ culture. All game animals are introduced pest species that are wiping out our native forests. Most people hunt for the pot and freezer, or to eliminate pests like rabbits, possums and wild goats. And Lisa, we’ve even got wallabies!! The only native mammals in NZ are two species of bats.
Possums are a plague devastating our native forests. Each night they consume about 21,000 tonnes of vegetation (300 g wet weight per possum x 70 million possums). So every possum a conservationist kills saves 109.5kgs of vegetation annually.
Mark, thank you for sharing your essay with us.
I don’t speak much on the subject of gun control. I know this killer had two legal handguns. Here in Hawaii it is so difficult to get a gun permit. You have to be certified sane and healthy, and/or at least disclosures made about any conditions. Would he have passed the rigor of these examinations if his state had the same regulations? Probably.
Without people guns are useless. You can outlaw (no pun intended) guns to try and prevent tragedies like this; however, guns are not the only weapons that kill.
I can’t decide about this essay. I’ve watched it twice. I don’t even like to think about this subject any more than the apartment. It seems like we are in one of those rashes of crimes like this one. People want to blame the economy for their crimes of passion, when there again, the economy doesn’t kill people. People kill people.
Can I imagine being as despondent as this man was when he chose to make himself feel better by killing these people? Yes. Can I imagine inflicting my own misery on others by killing them and setting in motion more grief than is imaginable? No. Therein lies the difference.
You can’t legislate humanity. See why I don’t like talking about these issues? Ick.
I tremble as Carrie said thinking of hitting the submit button. I may think a moment…
this is all bullshit..
There is no guns in USA ( or Texas )..
No murders either..
There was no Colombine..
John Lennon is still alive.. Hidind..
So does Jim Morrison..
Jim P.. Is accurate..
( see Borat movie for more Texas accuracies..)
Major Coincidence: George W Bush is from Texas..
Nite y’all from the innocent Las Vegas…
“Here in Hawaii it is so difficult to get a gun permit. You have to be certified sane and healthy…”
Yes, I know how difficult it is to be ‘sane’ and ‘healthy’ in this world! An extreme rarity, I must admit! :P
…see, I’ve been through the desert with a Horse with no name…
In the desert you forget your name…
…why don’t we made any cameras (good or bad) in USA..???
coZ we are busy building F-16…and weapons of DEFENSE..
( mass destruction is something that Saddham used to do.. Not us…)
Sometimes we kill our own people..
And that we call.. “friendly fire”…
Remember when DICK Cheney shot his best friend while hunting..???
That was “friendly fire”…
Good night America..
Good morning world…
for work on gun culture in america:
Firstly, what a sad event. What I get from this essay is a personal, intelligent and quiet approach. I am pulled into this essay deeply at image no.6, the photograph of the crowd and the two gurneys in the street. This is an extremely powerful image. The succinct edit really gives the work good measure, and while I am sure that you have quite a few more good images that you could have included, the ‘less is more’ approach to this presentation adds to its power.
The problem with the mass media (well, one of…), in general, I find from tragic events such as this one, is that attention is often focused on the person responsible for the crime. Journo’s are keen to get as much information as they possibly can about the perpertrator, rather than the victims. Often we overlook the innocent people, although not always, and focus on every possible background detail of the person responsible. There is validity to this, I guess, but it is sad that so often, the victims become nameless to the rest of the world. They are more often than not, forgotten ( obviouslynot by their families and friends though).
I like the inclusion of the street photograph (no.10) and in fact, I like the series of three images (10, 11, 12) that follows. I think this photograph, and the other “breather” photos give the viewer a chance to rest, breathe, between the more emotionally involving images. And i think giving the audience that little roller coaster up and then down actually strengthens the work as a whole.
I could go on, but I don’t like to read longer comments to much, so a bit of practice what I preach… But Mark, good job on presentation, dedication to the story and sensible approach to the subject.
P.s. Panos, I find your comments a bit ranting in regards to this essay, and somewhat unproductive. I’m all for comment and proactive critical appraisal on featured work, but the above comments appear to me somewhat unnecessary.
Your comments bring up topics I thought about a great deal indeed… Especially when talking to family members about how they wanted their loved ones remembered.
Thank you for writing.
Hey it took your really fantastic essay to bring me out of hiding!
I have been out and about a bit but if you have a look at BB on the last page of my gallery on my site you’ll get an idea of what I have been up to…
And just before I go into hiding again, just wanted to say keep up the good work! Really your work made me feel something which motivates me to keep going with mine!
Very well done, really touching.
Kind thoughts go out to the families.
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