Justin Maxon

Heaven’s Gain


July 5th, 2013. ‘Hey Bro, well its 7 months today since you was taken away from us… I know you don’t want to see us down & heart broken. It is going to get harder b4 it get easy but we trying.’
Since the murder of her twin brother on December 5, 2012, Elena Jo McElwee, writes to him on the 5th day of every month. She fills the blank space on her bedroom walls with notes to her brother. She must maintain this connection with him. She must never forget.
In Chester, PA, families are seeking justice and yearning for ways to heal. With 300 unsolved murders in the last two decades, Chester is known as a place where you can get away with murder. The City is a microcosm of the structural and racial inequalities that pervade American society. Donald Newton, activist and lifetime resident, observed “Night now in Chester is night now in many places? night now in Philadelphia, in Camden and every other place you can think of…
Over the last 3 years, I’ve collected stories of families where justice was not served after the murder of a loved one. This project is a deep investigation into the emotional, physical and spiritual landscape that transpires from unresolved trauma. The photographic representation is a series of family portraits of people seeking justice, which are paired with an image from the murder scene captured around the time of day the crime was committed. Imperatively, to give the families’ a vehicle in their own depiction, I’ve collected ephemeral material (letters, love songs, drawings, diary entries and other objects), which is interwoven into the presentation.
My ultimate assumption of this work will be to forge pathways towards justice, healing and restitution by serving as an archeological index for investigating, [dis]assembling and [re]framing each murder as a living memory that simultaneously traverses and molds the landscape, psyche and soma of Chester.




Justin was born in a small town in the woods of northern California. His work reveals variables of truth in humanity’s conflicted existence.

He has received numerous awards for his photography, from competitions like World Press Photo, UNICEF Images of the Year, and American Photo. He won the Deeper Perspective Photographer of the Year at the 2008 Lucie Awards; the same year he was named one of PDN’s 30 Photographers to Watch. He was selected to participate in World Press Photo’s 2010 Joop Swart Masterclass. He received the 2011 Cliff Edom ‘New America Award’ from NPPA. He was also selected as one of Magenta’s 2012 Flash Forward Emerging Photographers. In addition, he has received grants from the Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund, FotoVisura, the Alexia Foundation for World Peace, and the Aaron Siskind Foundation. Most recently, he was selected by Blue Earth Alliance for their fiscal sponsorship.


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Justin Maxon

3 thoughts on “Justin Maxon – Heaven’s Gain”

  1. I appreciate this work as it is about process and through that it gains a certain form of independence from the image …………………….. check out “A Delicate Nature” on Justin’s site

  2. Pingback: Photojournalism Daily: Oct. 23, 2014 - LightBox

  3. i LOVE Justin Maxon’s work…..always have….and LOVE this series…MY ONLY COMPLAINT (hear that J) is that 15 is not enough!…..I equate this work (in short form) to what Goldberg does…

    and as an aside, justin is a great and loving and caring person…still incredibly relevant to me…it’s clear from the work too )…

    so far, my favorite work submitted in the EPK…really about THE PROCESS of seeing and story telling….

    dream-song narrative filled with huge age…

    its a wrestling with our inabilities, try as we may….

    that alone is enough…to wear the heart out trying…

    for me, delirious and so heart breaking…..and filled with risk!


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